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[NEWS] What are the different types of electric car plugs?

What are the different types of electric car plugs?

Type 2 plug

Electric car chargers have to navigate at least five different plugs, which can be confusing, but not if you follow our guide

For many potential EV buyers one of the most confusing aspects of ownership are the multiple charging connectors. Unlike traditional internal combustion engined cars that all use similar filler nozzles to receive their fill of fuel, with electric cars there are at least five different plugs, with various manufacturers committed to one or even two systems. However, as our handy guide shows, it’s more straightforward than it looks, and in future will likely be even more so.

Type 1 plug

This five-pin connector is used widely in North America, but in the UK and Europe it’s been largely superseded by the Type 2 variety. That said, you’ll still find it on some older EVs, such as the first generation versions of the Nissan Leaf and Kia Soul EV, while the plug-in hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV continues to use this connector. This system is only designed for AC (Alternating Current) slow and fast charging, which means it can accept anything between 3 and 7kW. And while you’re unlikely to find a tethered (charging cable permanently attached to the charger) Type 1 public charger, EVs with this system should have an adapter that allows them to be plugged into untethered charging points.

Type 2 plug

By far the most common plug in Europe, the Type 2 is sometimes referred to as the Mennekes in deference to the German company that designed the connector. Recent EU legislation means that most car manufacturers now have to fit this seven-pin plug as standard to their EV models, meaning that almost all tethered public charging points will have a Type 2 plug.

Like the Type 1, this system is designed to work with slow and fast charging. However, it can also handle the 22kW delivered by a three-phase power supply, although you’ll need to check your car can accept this rate of charge. The latest Renault Zoe can also handle charging of up to 43kW at one of the rare AC rapid charging sites, while the Tesla Model S and Model X use a modified Type 2 that allows them to charge at both the firm’s Supercharger network and at a domestic wallbox.

Unlike the Type 1 connector, the Type 2 can be locked to the car, ensuring nobody can disconnect the car while it’s charging and you're away from the vehicle.

Combination Plugs (Combined Charging System, or CCS)

The Combined Combination System, or CCS as it’s more commonly termed, is the most popular connector for DC (Direct Current) rapid charging. Most new pure EV models are fitted with this type of socket, which essentially allows you to both charge at a public DC rapid charger and a home AC unit. This is also the system that Tesla has started to adopt in Europe, making it standard on the Model 3, plus Telsa supplies a CCS adapter for the Model S and Model X so they can use this type of charger.

Essentially it combines the heavy duty 2-pin DC socket with either the 7-pin Type 2 (CCS Combo 2) or 5-pin Type 1 fixing, with the DC connector sitting below these AC plugs. When you want to top-up the battery at a rapid charging station (most will feature both types of CCS connectors), simply slot the tethered CCS connector into your car and, depending on the charger and vehicle, you can accept up to 350kW of current. However, while the CCS plug connects with both charger sockets in the car, it’s only the 2-pin element at the bottom that’s used to transfer the electricity to the battery. When you’re charging at home, simply use your Type 2 plug for the top half of the socket.

CHAdeMO plug

CHAdeMO is the abbreviation for the rather enigmatic sounding ‘Charge de Move’, one of the first DC rapid charging systems. Devised in 2010 in Japan, it’s still the connector favoured by Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota. Like the CCS system it is used for rapid charging and is currently capable of carrying up to 400kW, with Chinese technology providers looking to up this to 900kW.

Unlike its CCS rival, CHAdeMO requires the car to have two separate plugs for rapid and slow/fast charging (one CHAdeMO, the other a Type 2 or Type 1 socket). That’s not necessarily a hassle from a usability point of view, but it does mean a much larger access flap, which can be harder to package into the car’s styling.

While CHAdeMO is less popular in Europe than CCS, it does have one trick up its sleeve: the ability to carry electrical current in two directions, which in theory allows for ‘Vehicle to Grid’ energy transfer. Still in its early days, this technology allows you to use some of the electricity from your fully charged EV to partly power your home, or even sell some of the unused energy back to the National Grid. However, several firms are working on bi-directional CCS charging, which is likely to strike a final blow to the CHAdeMO charging system, in Europe at least.

Domestic socket

Almost all EVs have the capability to be charged from a domestic supply using a familiar 3-pin plug. This charger simply plugs into your home socket and is connected to a small transformer box that has either a Type 1 or Type 2 plug at the other end, which you connect to the car. It’s recommended as an emergency solution (such as when you’re staying with friends and family and need a top-up), because prolonged use can damage your home’s wiring. It must also never be used with an extension lead.

CEE plug

Popular with very early electric cars, such as the G-Wiz, this is also known as the ‘camping connector’. It refers to the plug at the power supply and is the same sort used by campsites to provide electrical power to visiting caravans and campers. You can have it installed in your home, where it will deliver a 3kW slow charge, but it also has the added bonus of working with an industrial standard three-phase supply for fast charging at up to 22kW.

Tesla Supercharger

You’re more than likely familiar with the Tesla Supercharger network, with many motorway services home to these multiple charging points. Available exclusively to Tesla owners (although the company is considering opening up its outlets to owners of other EV brands), all the chargers feature tethered cables and the firm’s own rapid charging compatible Type 2 connector. With the advent of the Model 3 the network is also rolling out CCS connectivity.

Electric car charging cables

Mode 2 charging cable

This is the most basic slow or trickle charging cable. It’s the one you’ll get with the car that features a 3-pin plug at one end and a Type 1 or Type 2 connector at the other, with an electrical transformer in between.

Mode 3 charging cable

The second cable you should get with the car is the Type 3, which allows you to connect to an untethered (where the cable isn’t permanently attached to the charging unit) public charging point or home wallbox. Most feature a Type 2 connector at the charger end, then depending on the car either Type 1 or Type 2 plug at the other.

What about wireless charging?

Look just a little further into the future and it’s possible to see a time where cables can be consigned to the bin. Wireless charging is still in its infancy, but numerous companies and organisations have successfully trialed the technology that should take the sting out of topping up cells, especially for drivers with no off-street parking.

Almost all set-ups use an inductive system similar to that used to wirelessly charge a smartphone, just on a larger scale. Essentially a large charging pad is embedded in the ground and is activated when an EV is parked on top of it. It manages this by transferring the electricity across the air using from one magnetic coil (the one buried in the road) to another (fitted to the car).

In the UK electric charging companies such as began a year-long trial of the technology in late 2021 in Marlow, Buckinghamshire using a fleet of 10 Renault Zoes. BMW has been experimenting even longer, running a number of wireless charger-equipped 530e models in Germany and the US since 2019. Going back further still, buses on the Number 7 route in Milton Keynes have been using the system for their short 15 miles route since 2014.

More importantly, Genesis has announced that it’s first all-electric model, the GV60, will have a wireless charging option when the car is launched later this year, even though there are currently no publically available chargers just yet. Although details are still largely under wraps, the Korean brand has revealed that the system is capable of recharging the car’s 77.4kWh battery in around six hours, compared to 10 hours using a conventional wallbox.

Wireless charging isn’t just limited to stationary vehicles either, with Qualcomm already successfully piloting a system that can keep batteries topped-up on the move. Using inductive loops buried underneath the road surface, the firm successfully charged adapted cars travelling up to 70mph on its 100 metre long test route. Obviously this is a very expensive solution as it requires millions of miles of roads to be dug up to install the tech, but it’s possible for new roads and refurbished stretches to be fitted with the tech.


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