Electric vehicle owners know the charging connector that came with their car will work and charge their vehicle in no time at all.
But many don’t know or understand the various EV charging connector types that they may find on the road—and this can cause anxieties not knowing if you’ll be able to charge away from home. Or worse, pulling up to a charger and realizing it’s not compatible with your car.
But today, we’ll lay out everything you need to know about EV charging stations, levels, and connections—plus industry standards on EV charging.
We’ll also answer these common questions:
- How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle?
- What standards are in place for EV connectors?
- What voltage do I need to support an EV charger?
- Can I upgrade my current EV charging unit at home?
So whether you’re an electric vehicle owner or just thinking about it, this guide will help you stay in the know when it comes to charging your vehicle.
What Is AC/DC Charging?
And no, we’re not talking about the legendary rock band. AC and DC are different forms of electrical power. And when we’re talking about EV chargers, the difference between AC and DC is where the AC, or alternating current, gets converted to DC, direct current.
Most chargers, and electrical appliances in general, are AC powered, meaning the AC gets converted to DC outside of the car, right from the grid, and then goes into the car’s battery. On the other hand, DC converts in the charger plug-in itself.
Electric vehicle car batteries in North America will only accept DC; thus, chargers are always AC/DC or DC. Meanwhile, in Europe and Japan, their EV batteries may be charged using AC only.
Level 1 Vs. Level 2 Chargers
Prospective buyers of electric vehicles all share one concern: how fast can I charge my vehicle? This can depend on many things, but mostly the level of charger you have. It also depends on how many amps, watts, or volts the charger uses, which you can learn more about here.
The industry standard is that every EV comes with a Level 1 charger that can fully charge the vehicle in 11-20 hours. Compared to a Level 2 charger, this is incredibly slow.
The biggest differences between a Level 1 and Level 2 charger are how many volts are required to charge and the speed at which it does. For example, A standard 15 amp, 125v charger will come with your vehicle and do a fine job charging the car overnight or over the weekend.
But this smaller amperage and voltage means fewer kilowatts are going into the vehicle. And kilowatts relate to how powerful the current of electricity is. The stronger the current, the faster the charge, in this case.
A Level 2 charger, on the other hand, is an EV charger that runs on 240 volts and 40 amps. Most homes should be able to handle 240v, and your home may already run at 240v, mainly to run large appliances. If your home doesn’t have that and you want a Level 2 charger, a professional electrician can help upgrade your system.
Many electric vehicle owners choose to upgrade to a Level 2 charger at home due to the sheer power and speed it can charge their vehicle. A Level 2 can get to a full charge in 3-8 hours vs. the 11+ of a Level 1 we mentioned before.
In addition to the Level of charger, there are also different connector types, which we’re here to differentiate. It’s essential to know the standard options because the last thing you want to happen is to be away from the home charger you’re familiar with and have a low battery at an incompatible EV charging station.
EV Plug Standards in North America
Our partner, Blink, put together this convenient chart to show the EV Plug Standard across North America vs. Europe, Japan, and China. The most common plug for electric cars in America is the J1772. Unless your electric vehicle is a Tesla or has a custom DC speed charger, you most likely use a J1772 connector.
These standards make it easy for EV drivers to have easy access to both private and public charging stations across the country. You can pretty much bet you’ll be able to charge your vehicle at any station, no matter where you are.
However, you might be out of luck if you run by a Tesla-only charging station but need a J1772 type connector. That’s why it’s just as vital to have a home charger like a Level 2 that can get you juiced up in no time.
Other EV charging connectors in North America include the CHAdeMO and SAE Combo (CCS).
- The CHADeMO is a specialty connector that can supply up to 62.5kW by 500V—Wow! That’s more than twice as much power as a standard Level 2 charger. CHADeMO connectors require an additional J1772 to get Level 1 or 2 charging but should work if you have the proper voltage.
- An SAE Combo CCS charger is a combined charging system growing in popularity and may become the standard on all new upcoming electric vehicles manufactured by BMW, Volkswagen, and Chevy. A CCS charger uses a Combo 1 and 2 to charge up to 350kW, which would be a game-changer to EV charging standards.
International EV Plug Standards
Standards vary greatly in other countries such as Europe, Japan, and China. Europe doesn’t even have Level 1 chargers as their standards for electricity start much higher at 230v so that users can install a Level 2 charger right out of the gate.
European EV plug standards include the same J1772, Tesla, and CHADeMO chargers we’ve mentioned so far (for Level 2 charging only). But they also utilize Type 2 (AC) and CCS2 (DC) fast chargers that aren’t utilized in any other plug standards outside of Europe.
Japan also primarily uses J1772 and CHADeMO connector types for Level 2 charging in all vehicles and DC fast charging. Meanwhile, China uses a GB/T (AC/DC) connector not used anywhere else in the world.
How to Know Which Type of Charging Connector Your Vehicle Uses
As we stated before, unless you have a Tesla or another electric car that uses a custom DC speed charger, your vehicle will likely use the J1772 connector type. You can find this out by checking your owner’s manual or contacting the manufacturer of your electric car.
Suppose you’re still unsure; no worries! Your friendly neighborhood EV charging specialists at Electric City can walk you through your charger options, including:
- The one that came with the vehicle
- The ones you’re most likely to find for public use
- Any home upgrade options
Our professional team can install your at-home EV charging station in no time at all. We can answer any questions or concerns you have before or after purchasing your electric vehicle—just contact us here, and we can help!