electric vehicles

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Before you invest in an electric vehicle (EV), there are a few things you should research. One of the most important factors, though, is what kind of charging connector an EV uses. Here’s how they’re different, and where you can actually use them.

Do All EVs Use the Same Plug?

While most EVs can charge at home and at various public charging stations, they do not all use the same charging connector, or “plug.” Some can only plug into certain levels of charging station, some require adapters to charge at higher power levels, and some have multiple outlets to plug a connector into when charging.

What Types of EV Plugs Are There?

Some electric cars use industry standards like the J1772 connector, while others have their own hardware. Teslas, for example, use a proprietary plug designed just for Tesla EVs, so a Nissan Leaf wouldn’t be able to use a Tesla charging station because its plug wouldn’t connect.

Whether you’re using alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) to charge will affect what plug you use to connect. Level 1 and level 2 charging stations both use AC power, and the charging cable that comes with most EVs will connect to those stations without an issue. Level 3 fast-charging stations, however, use DC power which requires a different plug with more wires for carrying the extra electrical load.

Which country an EV was manufactured in will also affect the plug it comes with because it has to be built to the manufacturing standards of that country. At the time of this writing, there are four major markets for EVs: North America, Japan, the EU, and China, all of which use different standards.

North America, for example, uses the J1772 standard for AC plugs. Teslas also come with an adapter that lets them connect to J1772 charging stations. That means any EV manufactured and sold in North America, including Teslas, can use a level 1 or level 2 charging station there.

As of this writing, there are four types of AC charging plugs and four types of DC charging plugs for EVs, excluding Tesla. Tesla plugs are built to accept AC and DC power and come with adapters for use with other charging networks, so they’re in their own category and won’t be included in the lists below.

For AC power, which is what you get at level 1 and level 2 EV charging stations, we have:

  • The J1772 standard, used in North America and Japan
  • The Mennekes standard, used in the E.U.
  • The GB/T standard, used in China

For DC fast charging or DCFC stations, there are:

  • Combined Charging System (CCS) 1, used in North America
  • CHAdeMO, used mostly in Japan but also available in the U.S.
  • CCS 2, used in the E.U.
  • GB/T, used in China

Some DCFC charging stations in North America have CHAdeMO plug outlets available because vehicles from Japanese manufacturers like Nissan and Mitsubishi still use them. Unlike CCS designs that combine a J1772 outlet with additional pins, vehicles that use CHAdeMO for fast charging have to have two plug outlets — one for J1772 and one for CHAdeMO. The J1772 outlet is used for regular charging (level 1 and level 2), and the CHAdeMO outlet is used to plug in at DCFC stations (level 3). Later generations, however, are reportedly phasing out CHAdeMO in favor of different and more widely used fast charging methods like CCS.

CCS plugs combine AC and DC plug arrangements into a single connector to carry more power. North American standard combo plugs combine a J1772 connector with two additional pins for carrying DC power. EU combo connectors do the same thing, adding two additional pins to the Mennekes standard connector plug.

Figuring Out Which Plug Your EV Uses

Knowing the standards used by each country for EV charging plugs will tell you which one uses which type of plug. If you’re buying an EV in North America that’s not a Tesla, it’ll probably use a J1772 plug. If you’re buying one made elsewhere, though, you’ll want to check with the manufacturer to see what standard it uses and whether you’ll have access to the right kind of charging station for that vehicle.

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