Charging and connectors
(Reading time: 3 minutes)
Electric car chargers can be divided into two main types: direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) chargers.
DC chargers typically have a high power and are used to recharge cars when a short charging time is important, as for example during roadtrips.
AC chargers with some exceptions usually have a lot less power than DC chargers and typically are used when charging time is not very important, for example overnight or whilst at work.
It should be noted that although the power of the charger is important, different models of electric vehicles support different maximum DC and AC charging speeds, thus the car model/type can itself be the factor limiting the charging speed.
Dedicated types of electric plugs and sockets exist for electric vehicles. Electric cars can use stations with these types of plugs and sockets without the use of any adapters. If a station is equipped with cables it can be plugged into the car directly, otherwise the driver can use a cable which is typically supplied with the car to plug into the station.
These dedicated types of power outlets are typically the easiest and most convenient to use by electric vehicle drivers. With that in mind, in principle with additional easily obtainable adapters electric vehicles can use pretty much any type of power outlet.
The main types of DC and AC plugs used for recharging electric vehicles are shown and described briefly below:
DC plug pictures
AC plug and socket pictures
Type 2 plug
Type 2 socket
Type 1 plug
There are three main types of DC plugs. None of them require the driver to have a separate cable to connect the car.
CHAdeMO – the first DC charging plug system, currently in Europe and America it is mostly supported by certain Japanese cars such as the Nissan Leaf. As it has gained only limited support from non Japanese manufacturers and does not support the fastest recharging speeds it might be superseded by other standards over the coming years. Max power – typically up to 50 kW.
CCS "Combined Charging System” – this standard currently supports the highest charging speeds and is expected to become the standard of choice in Europe and North America. Interestingly European and North American versions of this plug are quite different, even though the use the same or similar car to charger communication protocol. Max power – Over 250 kW, though the majority of stations still can not supply more than 50 kW.
Tesla connector – Tesla used to have a dedicated DC charging connector in Europe and continues to use a different connector version in North America and certain other countries such as Japan. Today in Europe new Tesla cars mostly have the CCS connector for DC charging. Typically provide a power of 150 to 250 kW
Several types of AC plugs and sockets are widely used. Most AC charging stations are only equipped with sockets and the driver must have a compatible cable to use them (a cable which enables the use of most of these chargers is usually provided with the car by the manufacturer). At some of the more powerful AC stations the cable is part of the station similarly as in the case of DC chargers:
“Type 2” – by far the most popular plug / socket in Europe. Most AC stations require the driver to have a cable to connect the station to the car, The majority of stations have a power between 7 and 22 kW, though some can provide up to 43 kW.
Type 1 - most often used for AC charging in North America, sporadically present in Europe as certain cars such as the Nissan Leaf are equipped with a Type 1 socket even in European markets (Type 1 to Type 2 cables are readily available so this is not a problem). Stations equipped with this socket typically provide between 7 and 20 kW.
Type 3 “SCAME” connector – mostly used in France and Italy. Can provide power of up to 22 kW.
Sporadically electric vehicle drivers can find other types of sockets available for their use. Typically dedicated connectors and cables, which have to be purchased separately to the car are required to take advantage of them, hence their use might present difficulties and requires some preparation.