Living with an electric car is not yet commonplace for everyone, and some aspects of electric driving require a change in habits. For starters, you don't have to drive to a petrol station; you can charge at home if you have a parking space or garage, for example. For trips further afield, there are public charging stations for refuelling (charging) en route, but you need to know about the types of charging cables and connectors.
EV Charging Cables
Simply put, an electric car charging cable consists of three parts: a connector that plugs into your car, a piece of cable and another plug that connects to a power source.
The EU realised back in 2014 that standardisation was badly needed and introduced legislation that stipulated that all new plug-in vehicles and charging points must have a 'Type-2' charging connector. Great, so all charging points are now only Type-2, you might think. Well, no.
So the plugs are standardised. This does not apply to the charging speeds that a cable can handle. These are available in different speeds, such as 16 ampere and 32 ampere, and in single-phase and three-phase variants. In the link between the meter connection, charging station, charging cable and electric car, the 'weakest' link determines the charging speed. So check beforehand which type of cable you need and whether it is suitable for your situation.
These are the most common EV cable connectors:
Type 1: The Type 1 connector is not common anymore these days. At least not in new electric cars. This plug used to be used on the first generation Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Type 1 is used for alternating current charging, just like the Type 2 plug. Charging on alternating current is done at public charging stations and at home charging stations. The charging speed of a Type 1 plug is often lower than what you are used to. Maximum 7.4 kW on a single phase. If you have an electric or plug-in hybrid car with a Type 1 plug, you should know that there are adapters available which make the Type 1 connector of your car suitable for a Type 2 plug.
Type-2: The Type-2 plug is the standard, which is ideal for charging anywhere with ease. You can easily lend your cable to your neighbour or colleague, because they have the same connector. In addition, you can easily charge at the charging stations that already have a cable attached. In 99 out of 100 cases, this will be a cable with a Type-2 plug. With a Type-2, you also benefit from a maximum 43 kW charging speed. 11 kW is the standard for Dutch households, but you can often opt for 22 kW. You will often see this offered at public charging stations or at companies.
CHAdeMO: The CHAdeMO fast charging plug is actually quite handy. This plug is not attached to a cable that you can buy. It is attached to a fast charging station, just like a petrol station. The CHAdeMO plug is the most suitable for bi-directional charging and discharging and is more often used by Asian car manufacturers, such as Nissan. However, because it cannot be combined with a Type 1 or Type 2 connector, electric cars with CHAdeMO need to use an extra connector in addition to the already desired Type 2 connector.
CCS: The CCS plug (Combined Charging System) has similar features to the CHAdeMO plug, in that it is well suited for fast charging. Unlike the CHAdeMO plug, the CCS plug builds on the Type-2 design - this is useful because it means that a Type-2 plug will also fit into a CCS socket. CCS sockets are found on European car manufacturers BMW, Volkswagen, Peugeot and Fiat, but are also found on models from other manufacturers selling cars in Europe, such as Tesla.
Charging speeds of both CHAdeMO and CCS are as high as 350 kW. But there is actually no electric car yet that can handle this power.
Types of charging cables for electric cars:
Where with plug you get more and more standardised solutions, Type-2 and CCS, there will always be different types of cables. They are divided into different "Mode" cables.
In Mode 1, you simply connect your car to the mains power supply without using any additional safety devices. However, many EV drivers will never have to deal with these, as they are never supplied as standard with a new electric car. On one side there is a socket connection, on the other side there is a Type-1 or Type-2 plug.
Mode 2 cables
Mode 2 cables build on Mode 1 and offer more safety and control. They have a built-in regulator that communicates with the car and determines how much current is charged into the battery - they also normally connect your car to a traditional household socket. Again, there is a socket connection at one end and a Type-1 or Type-2 plug at the other.
In Mode 3, things get smarter: the car and the charging station can 'talk' to each other. This means that an electric car can instruct the charge point to turn off the power when the battery is fully charged, and also that the car can evaluate the capacity of a charge point, thus changing the rate at which the car is charged. For example, that the last few percent of battery capacity reduces the charging rate. One end of the cable has a Type-2 plug for the charge point and the other end has the appropriate plug for the car, either Type-1 or Type-2.
Mode 4 is reserved for so-called DC fast charging. These chargers use more powerful power supplies and by combining the electronics in the charging station and the electric car being charged, they can add extra charge to the car battery at an impressive rate. The cables are thicker and sometimes even liquid-cooled to handle the high power. That is why they are always attached to the charging station. The plug on a fast charger is a CCS or CHAdeMO plug.