EV Charger Types: Guide to Station and Plug Types and Speeds

Rowan Harris 9 minutes Published: 01/06/2021

Charging is an important part of owning an electric vehicle. But it’s not as simple as ‘plugging in’. 

EV charging technology has improved rapidly over the past decade and we’ve seen a slew of new EV charger types. 

If you're considering buying an electric car, you'll need to know how to juice up your car effectively. In this article, we explore the different socket types and charging speeds, and what to do if you don’t have the right connector.

AC or DC - How Does it Affect Charging Speed?

How long does it take to charge an electric car?” This is a question for which there is no easy answer. Charging times vary considerably across cars and charging methods. 

To understand how charging methods influence charging speed, we have to go back to the basics. 

Electricity is supplied in one of two ways: AC (Alternating Current) or DC (Direct Current). The power that we take from the grid is always AC. This is because it can be easily transformed into higher or lower voltages. Higher voltages allow electricity to travel longer distances more efficiently, but aren’t great for general usage.

When charging an electric car, the power needs to be converted from AC to DC to be stored in the battery. In devices such as mobile phones or laptops, a ‘converter’ is usually placed inside the plug. In electric vehicles, this is inside the car. This allows you to charge at home using nothing more than a UK three pin plug, if you choose. However, this leads to a very slow pace of charging. 

Some EVs can charge much faster by using a fast or rapid charging station. Here, the conversion from AC to DC will happen outside the EV, using a much larger converter. The larger converter can convert AC power from the grid very quickly. It also allows DC power to flow directly from the charging station into the car’s battery, bypassing the onboard converter - leading to greatly reduced charging times.

AC and DC charging produce different ‘charging curves’ - this means that they have different charging speeds at different stages of the charging cycle. A full charge using AC charging can take as long as 24 hours, because it receives limited power for a longer period of time. DC charging is much faster overall, but it does slow down significantly, usually around 80% charged. 

This is one reason why manufacturers will advertise how long it takes to charge to 80%, rather than 100%. It’s also actually better for the battery’s health to stay within 20-80% charged range.

Types of Charging Station

There are three types of EV charging stations: slow, fast and rapid. 

The speed of the charging station is dependent on whether the power supplied is AC or DC. 

Each charging station ‘type’ has its own associated connectors:

  • Home charging units are AC slow or fast chargers. A typical wall box will supply 230 volts AC at 32 amps (7kw), though maximum charging speeds will depend on whether you have a single-phase or three-phase power supply. 
  • Public charging stations can provide much faster charging by converting the power to DC before charging your car. 

The table below shows the approximate charging times for each charger type, as well as the associated connector types.

Charger Type Estimated Time to Charge Connector Types
Slow Charging 12+ hours UK 3 Pin Plug Type 1 Type 2
Fast Charging 3-4 hours Type 1 Type 2
Rapid Charging 30 minutes (80%) Type 2 CHAdeMO CCS

While early adopters of the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X are fortunate enough to receive free charging at Tesla Superchargers, most electric car charging companies know that they can charge extra for the convenience of rapid chargers. This is worth keeping in mind if you’re not in a rush to get back on the road.

Types of Charging Cable/Modes

Before we get to the different connector types, it’s worth talking briefly about cables. 

Charging stations use either untethered or tethered cables. ‘Universal’ charging stations use untethered cables, allowing greater flexibility when it comes to which cars can use it. You’ll most likely find these on ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ charging stations on the high street. 

Tesla Superchargers, on the other hand, make use of a fixed or ‘tethered’ cable to deliver the fastest charging speeds to Tesla owners.

Charging cables also fulfil different purposes. There are 4 different ‘charging modes’ associated with different charging cables. 

Mode 1

The simplest mode of charging. It involves a direct connection between the vehicle and AC mains socket. However, this means it does not have any special safety systems. You will likely never use this as an EV owner.

Mode 2

Mode 2 charging uses the cable supplied with your EV, affectionately known as the ‘granny cable’ by EV owners. 

There are a couple of theories as to why it has this name. First, it is one of the slowest ways to recharge (apologies to all the grannies out there). Second, you’ll probably have to use it when you visit your grandparents as you’re likely without access to a wallbox charger.

Granny cables have an In Cable Control Box (ICCB). This essentially replaces the circuitry you would find inside a public charging station or wallbox and will allow electric car charging at home safely using a domestic three-pin socket.

Mode 3

In Mode 3 charging, the Control Box is integrated into the charging point. All wallboxes and public charging points using an alternating current (AC) use this. 

Mode 3 charging cables allow the car and the chargepoint to communicate to each other, so the car can instruct the chargepoint to stop when it is full. 

Mode 4

Mode 4 charging is the only method to use a direct current (DC). The charging station will usually be much bigger, housing a converter to transform AC to DC at a rate that is much faster than your EVs onboard converter.

Types of Connector

As demand for electric vehicles has grown over the past decade, new connector types have been designed to facilitate faster rates of charging. 

UK 3 Pin Plug

The mighty three-pin plug - it keeps our food cold, powers our TVs and delivers our next caffeine fix. Unfortunately, it’s not so great at charging cars. It will usually take upwards of 12 hours for an EV to reach full charge this way. 

Three-pin plugs just aren’t meant to provide such large amounts of power for long periods of time. Heat damage to the socket might become an issue if you use a poor quality socket or extension, or repeatedly charge this way. 

Charger Type Power Rating Charge Per 30 Minutes*
Slow 3.6kw 5 miles

Type 1

Type 1 isn’t very common in Europe - though you will find it on some older models of the Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It allows you to charge using AC power at speeds up to 7kw.

Charger Type Power Rating Charge Per 30 Minutes*
Slow 3.7kw 12.5 miles
Fast 7kw 25 miles

Type 2 (Mennekes)

Type 2 plugs are the European standard. They’ll work with pretty much every EV released in the past few years from Mercedes, BMW, Nissan, you name it! 

They can also charge much faster than Type 1 - provided you use the right chargepoints. If you own an EV fleet you’ll likely be able to take advantage of your site’s three-phase power supply to charge at 22kw. A Rapid AC charger with a type 2 socket will allow you to charge at 43kw on the highstreet.

Charger Type Power Rating Charge Per 30 Minutes*
Slow 3.7kw 12.5 miles
Fast 7kw 25 miles
Fast 22kw 75 miles
Rapid AC 43kw 150 miles

Combined Charging System (CCS)

The CCS or Combined Charging System does exactly what it says on the tin - by providing additional DC power lines to the standard Type 2 plug. 

CCS connectors are able to supply anywhere between 25kWh and 350kWh of power, making them a great choice for a quick top up - though actual charging speeds will depend on the capability of your vehicle. 

Charger Type Power Rating Charge Per 30 Minutes*
Rapid DC 50kw 150 miles
Rapid DC 150kw 225 miles

CHAdeMO

‘How about a cup of tea?’ Seriously, it’s that quick! The slightly unorthodox name is actually an erudite pun on the French phrase 'Charge de Move' (or ‘charge for moving’) and the Japanese phrase 'O cha demo ikaga desuka' - literally, 'let's have a tea while charging'. Don’t worry, it took us a while too…

CHAdeMO is the connector of choice for brands like Honda and Toyota - and it’s not hard to see why. Perhaps one of the most exciting features of CHAdeMO sockets is that they enable Vehicle-to-grid charging (V2G). With the right EV tariffs, such OVO energy’s V2G tariff, you can charge your car up from the grid when demand is low and sell stored energy back when demand is high. 

Charger Type Power Rating Charge Per 30 Minutes*
Rapid DC 50kw 150 miles

*assuming an average 60kwh BEV

Tesla Supercharger 

Tesla Superchargers are the fastest way to recharge. They use a modified Type 2 connector or CCS, but are incompatible with vehicles from other car manufacturers. Currently, there are over 600 in the UK, with over 100 added in the last year. For those who regularly travel long distances and don’t have time to be waiting around at motorway service stations, the Tesla Supercharger network is a key reason to buy a Tesla. 

While Tesla has invited other manufacturers to incorporate their technology into their EVs and make use of the supercharger network, few have done so. This all comes down to a ‘good faith’ clause which opens up any manufacturer that wants to use the charging network to potential legal challenges from Tesla further down the road. Looks like you’ll have to settle for a Tesla Model 3 after all…

Charger Type Power Rating Charge Per 5 Minutes
Rapid DC (Supercharger V3) 250kw 75 miles

Wireless - Not yet available in the UK!

A decade ago, wireless charging seemed like a gimmick. For compulsive smartphone users, a ‘charging pad’ might have even been an inconvenience. In electric vehicles, wireless charging makes a lot of sense. Electric car charging cable theft is a real issue - wireless charging would make it a thing of the past. 

Wireless roads would also mean you never actually have to stop to charge. Qualcomm has demoed this ‘dynamic wireless charging’ technology at speeds of up to 70mph. This could be a game changer for electric vehicles - though we’re sure that most EV drivers have become accustomed to their ‘extra’ coffee breaks.

What to do if you don’t have the right connector?

Perhaps you’ve arrived at a hotel only to find they have the wrong type of tethered charger. Or maybe you’ve bought a second EV that is incompatible with your wallbox at home. Adapters are available, but they can set you back a couple of hundred pounds.

If you haven’t yet installed a wallbox at home but are planning on doing so, it might be worth asking your installer about a ‘universal’ or untethered wallbox. This will mean that any car with its own charging cable will be able to use the wallbox without an adapter. It can also be a great way to future proof your wallbox. However, because the cable is not permanently fixed to the wallbox it will be easier to steal. 

Conclusion

For someone new to electric cars, charging can feel like a lot to wrap your head around. But once you’ve worked out how to charge an electric car, there really isn’t much to it. Manufacturers such as Tesla make the transition to low emission vehicles incredibly smooth, with ultra-fast rapid charging and built-in satellite navigation that plans your routes around charging stations automatically.