Electric Vehicle (EV) Charge Plugs Explained

Green Futures

Electric Vehicles utilise different types of charging cable depending on the age, performance and type of EV that you are looking to charge; the article is written from the point of view of charge cables commonly used within the UK, you may find others, but the below is to give you an overview of what is what and how they are used. The article doesn’t intend to give you a complete list, but instead the overview of the common ones used today and in future, things have already started to move toward standard simplification.

Don’t believe the common media’s synopsis: that its all really complicated and there’s 50 types of plugs just to charge your car, its not the case, it’s really simple! All you need to be concerned with is what your car uses depending on your type of EV that will be either one or two different charge cables and plugs.

Charge Speed

Some definitions first of the types of charge speed:

  • Slow Charging – 3kW or less, this means you’d be plugging your car into a 3-pin UK domestic plug (like your kettle or TV), you’ll rarely do this with an EV, basically because its very, very slow. You may hear this referred to as “granny charging” or needing to use a “granny cable”, most EVs come with a special “granny cable” in additional to their main charging cable, however manufacturers are increasingly not supplying the “granny cable” with new EV because they are so rarely used making them a paid for upgrade/additional. A charge might take up to 24 hours for a full large on an EV with a large battery (from flat).
  • Fast Charging – 7kW-21kW, the fast charging is the most common way you’ll charge your car, for this you’d use your normal charging cable (probably a type 2 cable), you need a special wall box fitted to your house or place of work, or if you are charging on the go you may find one of these at a supermarket. They may be known as “destination chargers”, again although they are called “fast” they would still take about 8 hours to charge your car from flat.
  • Rapid Charging – 50kW and above, these are special (often DC – direct current) chargers which you can find at service stations or increasingly at other locations such as supermarkets. These are very high powered chargers that can fill an EV from 10% (or flat) to around 80% in about 45 minutes depending on your EV.

A slow or fast charge would typically be done with your own cable to an untethered socket (meaning the cable is not attached to the charge wall box), its worth noting you can also get tethered wall charge boxes for home too if you don’t want to have to keep taking your cable out for each charge.

A rapid charger, such as what you’d find at a service station however, is always tethered meaning the cable is attached to the charger because it is specialist, expensive and high powered. When using tethered chargers you don’t need your charge cable, you just turn up, pick up the cable and plugin. Like filling a petrol/diesel car at the pump, the nozzle and pipe is tethered to the pump, you don’t bring your own!

Plug Types

As it stands today in 2023, most new EVs will have either:

  • Type 2 Socket and a Type 2 CCS Socket
  • Type 2 Socket and a Type 4 CHAdeMo socket

The former (Type 2 and CCS) is now much more common in the UK, in fact the CHAdeMo is now only really the Nissan Leaf (1st and 2nd Generation), Mitsubishi and some older EVs.

Within the UK i’d expect that all Rapid charging will end up being on the CCS in the future as this is the standard manufacturers within the UK and Europe seem to be moving ahead with; in which case things get even more simple, you’ll use a Type 2 plug when you’re charging “fast” (i.e. at 7kw) either at home or some destination (e.g a supermarket), and use a tethered CCS plug when you’re charging “rapid” or “super-rapid” at a service station at 50Kw or more.

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