EV Charging Connector Types: A Complete Guide
Electric vehicles (EVs) continue to grow in popularity worldwide due to their clean energy and efficient performance. However, with the increasing number of electric vehicles, ensuring the infrastructure is in place to meet their charging needs is critical. One critical component of charging infrastructure is the EV charging connectors, sockets, and plugs used on EVs and electric vehicle charging stations
These EV connectors can vary significantly by country and also the type of EV and charging station. There, unfortunately, isn’t a one-size fits all EV connector. Therefore it is essential to fully understand the different EV connectors, sockets, and plugs available worldwide. In addition, different charging station levels, such as Level 2 and Level 3 (DC fast charging), require specific EV connectors to ensure safe and efficient charging.
Understanding the various EV charging connectors, sockets, and plugs is crucial for EV owners, charging station providers and installers, and policymakers. This complete guide will explore the differences between the available electric vehicle connector types, what countries they are in, how fast they are, and much more. Below shows a visual summary of the electric vehicle connectors that are currently used in the market.
EV CHARGING CONNECTORS
Several EV charging connectors are available, each with unique features and capabilities. Before we look closely at each connector, we must understand that there are two primary electric vehicle charging methods: AC (alternate current) charging and DC (direct current) fast charging. The electrical power that comes from the grid is always in the form of AC, but the battery of an EV can only store energy in DC form. This means the power must be converted before storing it in the battery.
AC charging relies on the onboard charger in the vehicle to convert the AC power to DC. On the other hand, DC fast charging involves converting AC power to DC at the charging station before it flows into the vehicle. DC fast charging allows for a quicker charging experience as it bypasses the vehicle’s onboard charger, delivering more power directly to the battery. This is shown in the illustration below.
Now that we know the difference between AC and DC charging, let’s take a closer look at each type of EV charging connector:
SAE J1772 CONNECTOR – TYPE 1
The SAE J1772 connector, also known as a J Plug or Type 1 connector, is a charging standard used primarily in North America and Japan. It features five pins and can charge up to 80 amps utilizing 240 volts input, providing a maximum power output of an EV charger of 19.2 kW. The J1772 EV connector supports single-phase AC charging for Level 1 and Level 2 EV chargers. The drawback of the Type 1 plug is that it only allows single-phase use and does not have an automatic locking mechanism like the Type 2 (Mennekes) connector used in Europe.
Almost every North American electric car or plug-in hybrid will have a Type 1 plug on their vehicle except for Tesla, which has its own proprietary charging standard. However, they provide a compatible adapter allowing Tesla drivers to charge using a J1772 charger.
Electric Vehicle Charging Explained
From charging stations to charging equipment, here’s everything you need to know.
Buying an electric vehicle (EV) means being able to skip expensive trips to the pump while protecting our climate and health. But there’s still a learning curve when it comes to charging, from how long it takes to how much it costs. Let’s break down your most pressing questions about EV charging so that you can drive and refuel confidently.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
Charging your EV from empty can take as little as 20 minutes or upwards of 40 hours, depending on everything from the size of your particular car’s battery to where and when you decide to charge. First, it’s good to know the three levels of charging for EVs.
- Level 1: This is EV-speak for plugging the cord set that comes with your EV into a regular 120-volt outlet (the same kind you’d use for, say, a phone charger or a lamp). The gist is that this level of charging is slow—between 40 and 50 hours, if you’re charging from empty. Though it’s worth noting that, on average, U.S. car owners only drive about 31 miles a day. So Level 1 may be enough for your daily needs or in a pinch to add some mileage.
- Level 2: This means you’re charging from a 220-volt outlet (the same kind that heavy-duty appliances like washers use) or hardwired equipment. In this scenario, you can charge from empty in about four to ten hours. Public Level 2 charging stations are common at locations where drivers tend to park, like workplaces or commercial parking lots, but most EV owners also get this version installed in their garage so they can charge overnight. A nice bonus: Some incentives could cover the cost of Level 2 equipment.
- Level 3: For the fastest charging speeds, you can turn to Level 3 chargers—also known as DCFC chargers or direct current fast chargers—which can charge your EV from empty in as little as 20 minutes. These public charging stations are more expensive to use, but they are particularly great for time-conscious road-trippers or urban drivers who can’t easily refuel at home. Plus, they’re getting faster. The first generation typically charged vehicles at 50kW, but the ones being installed today are generally at least three times as powerful, with some charging at 350kW.
Making Electric Vehicle Charging Equitable Is Key to Our Clean Vehicle Future
Overall, there are a few other things to keep in mind. One, you’ll rarely charge your battery from completely empty to completely full. EV drivers are far more likely to “top off” their battery—making charging times quicker in practice. (In general, most manufacturers suggest keeping the battery’s charge in the range of 20 to 80 percent to extend its life.)
And, of course, not every car has the same battery capacity. General Motors’ 2022 all-electric Hummer, with its massive 212 kWh battery, could take hours longer to fully charge than the Chevy Bolt’s more modest 65-kWh battery. That said, Level 2 charging can generally charge even the biggest EV batteries overnight.
Additionally, not every battery can accept electricity at the same rate, a limitation that’s most relevant when it comes to Level 3 charging. The first generation of EVs was often only capable of charging at 50kW, so they cannot take advantage of the 350kW Level 3 charging stations that are increasingly the industry standard and which can provide hundreds of miles of range in about as much time as it takes to get a coffee and use the restroom.
What are the different types of EV plugs?
EVs have distinct charge ports, which are like outlets on the car. This means that the shape of the plug you connect to your EV varies as well. It’s important to know what plug your car uses, as not every public charging station will be compatible with every kind of plug.
For Level 1 and Level 2 charging, all EVs sold in the United States (besides Teslas) use a J1772 plug (also known as a J-plug). For speedy Level 3 DCFC, all U.S. EVs (again, besides Teslas) use either CCS (which stands for “combined charging system” and is the most common) or CHAdeMO plugs, depending on the brand of car. Teslas use the same proprietary plug for all levels of charging—including at Tesla Supercharger stations. They also come standard with a J1772 adapter.
How much does it cost to charge an electric car?
The average EV driver will spend 60 percent less on fueling costs compared to the average gas vehicle in their class. But electricity still isn’t free, and you’ll have to do a little math to determine what charging will run you.
Most EV owners regularly charge at home, which means the cost of electricity where you live and when you charge your car will determine your bill. To get a rough estimate of your monthly charging costs at home, multiply your car’s kilowatt-hour (kWh)/100 miles rate (the EV equivalent of miles per gallon) by your electricity rate, which you can find on your utility bill. This will give you the electricity cost per 100 miles driven.
Note that charging your car overnight, when electricity demand and price drop, can save you as much as 30 percent. If you forgo charging at home and go with public charging stations, particularly the ultra-speedy DC fast chargers, you’ll be paying a premium.
But if you want to skip the math, know this: Charging at home is roughly the equivalent of fueling up on a dollar-a-gallon gasoline, according to NRDC senior attorney Max Baumhefner.
Where are the electric vehicle charging stations near me?
EV charging stations aren’t as ubiquitous as gas stations—but that’s likely to change. Encouragingly, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law dedicated 7.5 billion to build out half a million more public charging stations. Plus, as the market share of EVs grows, expect local governments, utilities, and private electric vehicle charging companies like ChargePoint and Tesla to build out their networks too. But even now, there’s a good chance you can find at least a few public chargers near you.
You can use a public charging station app—like ChargeHub, PlugShare, or Chargemap—to filter nearby locations by available plug type.
Keep in mind that some charging companies require you to have a membership to recharge your EV at their stations, which means you may need a physical membership card or to log in with your phone. If you drive a Tesla, the car’s navigation points you to their proprietary network of Superchargers, which only Tesla drivers can visit (at least for now).
Are electric vehicles worth it?
Rest assured that choosing to drive an EV—and learning how to charge it—is well worth your time: The average EV consumer saves thousands of dollars across the life of the car, spares the community toxic tailpipe emissions, and helps us ditch climate-destroying fossil fuels for good.
EV home charging is the most practical charging solution
You may be wondering why it’s so important to have an EV home charging setup when public charging stations are available. While public charging infrastructure continues to grow, most drivers still rely on the EV charging solution in their home.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are approximately 43,000 public charging stations in America that provide 120,000 charging ports. Natural Resources Canada shows that 6,000 public charging stations are available across the country.
It will be several years before public charging stations are as easy to find as gas stations. For this reason, charging your EV at home is still the most reliable option.
“Range anxiety” (worrying about having enough battery power to get to a destination) is one of the top concerns for prospective EV buyers. Being able to charge your EV at home significantly helps ease that anxiety and is far more convenient than using public charging stations.
Using a public charging station involves finding a location, potentially waiting for a charging port to become available, and then having to wait while your vehicle charges. Some public charging stations are free to use. Many have Rapid charging but come with a fee.
With a garage EV charging station, you can fully charge your vehicles when it is convenient for you.
There are three categories of EV charging
EV charging is broken down into three levels. Here’s what each level means.
This is the most basic level of charging. BEVs and PHEVs come with a 120-volt charging cable that plugs on one end into the vehicle’s charge port and the other end is plugged into a standard household electrical outlet.
Because Level 1 is the slowest charging method (about 2-5 miles of range per hour of charge), it’s most practical for PHEVs that aren’t driven long distances regularly. Most PHEV batteries (which have smaller batteries than BEVs) can be fully recharged overnight.
The most common type of EV home charging method is to use a Level 2 charging station. which is also known as EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment). The chargers can be installed in a garage or outside and plug into the same type of 240-volt outlet that dryers and stoves use.
A Level 2 EV home charging station charges anywhere from three to ten times faster than Level 1 charging and is essential for most owners of fully electric vehicles. PHEV owners who drive a lot may also prefer the convenience of having a faster charging method for their vehicle.
The fastest way to charge an EV is with a Level 3 direct current (DC) charger. This is the type that many public charging stations have (Level 2 chargers are also commonly available at the stations).
Most Level 3 chargers can recharge an EV battery from empty to 80% in 30-45 minutes. This charging method uses a 480-volt system, which most houses can’t accommodate.
How to get your garage ready for an EV charger
Getting your EV home charger set up will likely require some electrical work in the garage from a certified electrician to provide the charger’s 240-volt power source.
Depending on what type of charger you want, the electrician can simply install a 240-volt outlet on the wall which you can plug the charger into. The other option is to hardwire the wall-mounted charger directly into your electrical panel. Plug-in chargers are easier to install and remove if you’re going to the cottage, eventually move, or want to upgrade the charging system in the future.
Getting your garage EV-ready also requires you to actually have enough space to be able to park inside, install the charger, and have enough room to use it every day. That’s easier said than done in some garages, which 20-25% of homeowners are unable to park in because of clutter.
To get the garage organized and eliminate floor clutter, invest in better storage systems like slatwall panels, cabinetry, and overhead racks to maximize the room’s storage space.
A tidy garage allows easy access to your EV charging station and lets you enjoy the numerous other benefits of parking your cars and trucks indoors.
Choosing the best location for an EV charger
For various reasons, some homeowners choose to have their charging stations installed outside, usually near the garage entrance or at the side of their house. They’ll need to ensure the charger they buy is certified for outdoor use. Proper EV chargers can be used safely outdoors, even when it’s raining or snowing.
Most EV owners will have their charger installed in the garage, which is the most ideal location for a few reasons.
First, you won’t have to worry about the charging station, charging cable, or your vehicle being vandalized. You also won’t have to contend with handling wet, muddy cables when there’s precipitation. or being outside in that nasty weather to plug or unplug the vehicle’s charging cable. Parking indoors in extreme cold weather improves the efficiency of the recharging process as well.
Naturally, an EV charger installed in the garage should be as easy to access as possible. The location of the charging port on the vehicle will be a big factor in where the wall-mounted charger is installed.
Most Level 2 charging cables are 16-20 feet long. For a little more flexibility with your EV charging setup, consider getting an extra-long cable that is 25 feet in length or more. That extra cable length will come in handy if you’re unable to park inside or want to have more space in the garage for a few hours of hobby time.
If you have two or three EVs parked in the garage, that’s another major factor that will dictate the charger’s location. For this type of setup, a centralized location (like on a wall between the garage doors) is the most practical, whether you’re using a single charger, two separate chargers, or a dual charger.
What Are The Different Levels Of Electric Vehicle Charging?
We’ve been refueling our cars with gasoline for more than a hundred years. There’s a few variants to choose from: regular, mid-grade or premium gasoline, or diesel. However, the refueling process is relatively straightforward, everybody understands how it’s done, and it’s completed in about five minutes.
However, with electric vehicles, refueling—the recharging process—isn’t quite as simple, or as quick. There’s a number of reasons why that’s so, such as the fact that every electric vehicle can accept different amounts of power. There are also different types of connectors used, but most importantly, there are different levels of EV charging that determine how long it takes to charge an EV.
Charging levels and charging times apply to EVs and plug-in hybrids, but not to traditional hybrids. Hybrids are charged by regeneration or by the engine, not by an external charger.
Three Levels of EV Charging
There are three levels of EV charging; Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Level 3 is broken into DC Fast Charging and (Tesla) Supercharging. The higher the level of charging, the faster the charging process, as more power is delivered to the vehicle. It’s important to note that different EVs charge at different speeds on each level, because each EV can accept different levels of power from the EVSE, industry-speak for electric vehicle supply equipment, the charger.
When an electric vehicle is plugged in, there’s a communication process before the charger is energized. Basically, the car asks the charger how much power it can deliver, and then the car calls for the maximum amount of power that the station can deliver and the vehicle can accept.
The car always determines how much power it accepts, so there’s no need to worry about plugging into a charging station that can deliver more power than your EV can handle. The car will not allow the charger to deliver too much power.
Level 1 Charging: 120-Volt
Connectors Used: J1772, TeslaCharging Speed: 3 to 5 Miles Per HourLocations: Home, Workplace Public
Level 1 charging uses a common 120-volt household outlet. Every electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid can be charged on Level 1 by plugging the charging equipment into a regular wall outlet. Level 1 is the slowest way to charge an EV. It adds between 3 and 5 miles of range per hour.
Level 1 charging works well for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) because they have smaller batteries, currently less than 25 kWh. Since EVs have much larger batteries, Level 1 charging is too slow for most daily charging, unless the vehicle isn’t needed to drive very far on a daily basis. Most BEV owners find that Level 2 charging better suits their daily charging needs.
Level 2 Charging: 208-Volt to 240-Volt
Connectors Used: J1772, TeslaCharging Speed: 12 to 80 Miles Per HourLocations: Home, Workplace Public
Level 2 charging is the most commonly used level for daily EV charging. Level 2 charging equipment can be installed at home, at the workplace, as well as in public locations like shopping plazas, train stations and other destinations. Level 2 charging can replenish between 12 and 80 miles of range per hour, depending on the power output of the Level 2 charger, and the vehicle’s maximum charge rate.
Most BEV owners choose to install Level 2 charging equipment at their residence, because it charges the vehicle up to 10 times faster than Level 1 charging. Charging from a Level 2 source usually means the vehicle will be completely charged overnight, even if you plugged with a nearly empty battery.
Level 2 chargers can deliver up to 80 amps of power. But that requires a 100-amp 208-240V dedicated circuit and a heavy, costly supply line from the breaker box. Most owners will be well served choosing a 40-amp charger that can deliver 9.6 kW to the EV. A 48-amp charger can charge slightly faster at 11.5 kW, but requires a heavier gauge wire and the charger must be hardwired to comply with the NEC code. Therefore, 48-amp chargers can cost significantly more than a 40-amp unit and offer only marginally faster charging.
Level 3 Charging: 400-Volt to 900-Volt (DC Fast Charge Supercharging)
Connectors Used: Combined Charging System (Combo), CHAdeMO TeslaCharging Speed: 3 to 20 Miles Per MinuteLocations: Public
Level 3 charging is the fastest type of charging available and can recharge an EV at a rate of 3 to 20 miles of range per minute. Unlike Level 1 and Level 2 charging that uses alternating current (AC), Level 3 charging uses direct current (DC). The voltage is also much higher than Level 1 2 charging, which is why you don’t see level 3 chargers installed at home. Very few residential locations have the high-voltage supply that is required for level 3 charging.
Additionally, DC Fast Chargers cost tens of thousands of dollars. So even if your residence has 400-volt electricity service, the cost to install the charger would most likely cost more than your EV. Tesla calls their Level 3 chargers Superchargers; others are called DC Fast Chargers. Current Nissan EVs use a third specification, CHAdeMO.
EV Charging Levels FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Do all EVs use the same connector?
In North America, all EVs except Tesla use the same connector for Level 1 and Level 2 charging, called J1772 or the “J-Plug.” For Level 3 charging there are three standards currently in use. Tesla uses its proprietary plug, Nissan and Mitsubishi use the Asian standard called CHAdeMO, and all other manufacturers use the Combined Charging System, CCS or “Combo” plug. However, Nissan recently announced they will be switching to the Combo plug for Level 3 charging in their new EVs in North America and Europe beginning later in 2021.
Can I install a Level 2 charger in my home?
Most homes in the US can add a circuit for a Level 2 charger without the need to upgrade the service. A Level 2 charger needs a dedicated 240-volt circuit like that of an electric clothes dryer or electric kitchen range. In some instances, you can even share the existing circuit that powers the electric clothes dryer with your Level 2 EV charger if it’s located in your garage, or nearby.
How much does it cost to install a Level 2 charger?
Level 2 chargers cost between 250 and 450,000, depending on the power and features available. Installation typicaly range from 200 to 450,000, and into the thousands if you require a service upgrade to add the additional circuit needed. It’s wise to consult the advice of a licensed electrician before purchasing an EV, so you know exactly how much it will cost to install the home charging equipment in advance. A federal tax credit can offset up to 30% of the cost of buying and installing a charger. It’s effective through the end of 2021.
What level is the charge cable that came with my car? If I have that, do I need a charging unit in the garage or just a 240-volt outlet?
Every electric vehicle comes with a portable charger. Some are Level 1, some are Level 2 and others come with adapters that allow them to plug in and charge from both Level 1 and Level 2 outlets. Some units are all the owner will need to charge their EV, but others aren’t powerful enough and owners will want to buy a more powerful charger. You need to check the power output of the standard charger and see how it matches up with your charging needs, based on how many miles you drive in a typical day.
Can I charge my EV on a Tesla Supercharger?
No. Tesla Superchargers can only be used to charge Tesla vehicles. The Tesla Supercharger network is a proprietary network installed by Tesla for Tesla customers only.
Can I charge my Tesla on a non-Tesla DC Fast Charger in places where I wouldn’t find a Supercharger?
Yes. Tesla sells a 400 adapter that allows Tesla owners to plug into CHAdeMO DC fast chargers. Tesla also plans to sell a Combo adapter so Tesla owners can also access DC Fast chargers with the Combo standard. Tesla to Combo adapters are already available in Europe, but the North American Combo plug is slightly different, so a different adapter needed to be developed.
How much does it cost to charge on a Level 3 charger?
Level 3 chargers are operated by private charging networks, and the pricing varies greatly from network to network. Some bill the customer by how long the vehicle is connected to the charger, while others bill by how much energy was dispensed. Charging your EV on a level 3 charger will almost always cost much more than charging at home and can cost 2 to 3 times as much at some locations. At that point, the cost to drive on electricity is nearly the same as the cost to drive using gasoline although with lower total emissions.
Are there ways to get cheaper on L3 chargers? Can I join a club? Get volume discounts?
Most EV charging networks offer discounted charging if you join a monthly or yearly service plan that requires you to pay a fee. However, if you use the network more than once a month the savings usually more than cover the cost of the monthly membership.
If my automaker has an affiliation with an L3 charge service, does that give me a discount?
Many automakers offer discounted or even free charging for a number of years on a particular charging network. In some cases an EV can come with free unlimited charging for up to three years on a partner network. Always ask your dealership if any discounted or free charging plans come with the EV you’re considering.
Range-added time for Level 3 chargers is often described in miles per minute (not hour) because of the speed (3-20 miles of range added per minute in this example). Level 3 charging rates (speeds) can vary considerably by vehicle, depending on the EV’s ability to accept power.