At first glance, the topic of electric car charging cables can look confusing. So many different plug types, so many different charging speeds! But we’re here to help you figure out what goes where, and which does what…
Before we jump in, it’s good to know that the power rating of chargers and chargepoints is given in kilowatts, or kW for short. Broadly speaking, a higher number is better, but we’ll get into that below.
Whichever electric vehicle you buy, you’ll also receive a set of charging cables. What you’re guaranteed to find is a single set of cables, with a domestic 3-pin plug on one end, and the correct plug type for your vehicle on the other.
That’s perfect for charging your vehicle at home, but you’ll need a whole other cable for plugging your vehicle into one of the many chargepoints you’ll find when you’re out and about.
It’ll probably be the case that your vehicle does actually come with both sets of cables, but if not, you can purchase the right cable for charging on the go from the manufacturer, or from one of the many reputable online retailers.
Different charger speeds
Charging speeds are split into three categories – slow, fast, and rapid. Those categories might seem fairly self-explanatory, but there’s a bit more detail you should be aware of.
Slow chargers are rated up to 3kW, and include charging at home from a 3-pin domestic plug socket. Since the kW rating on slow charging is low, this means the time it takes to charge a battery to 100% is longer. In fact, it can typically take up to 12 hours, so it’s best to use this charging speed if you’re plugging in overnight.
Fast chargers are – you guessed it – a little bit faster than slow chargers. They’re rated at either 7kW or 22kW, depending on the charging unit speed, and you’ll find them most often in car-parks or outside office buildings.
Jump up to the world of rapid charging, however, and you’ll experience potential charging speeds of up to 120kW, assuming you have a compatible vehicle. Rapid chargers can charge a battery up to 80% in as little as 30 minutes – a real game-changer. They’re found at places like motorway service stations.
Plugs & connector types
You might think that when someone had the bright idea of introducing electric cars, they’d set a universal plug type and socket for all cars to use. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more like the world of mobile phones, where different companies use different connectors to charge their devices.
The type of connector you’ll need depends on the charger type and its socket, as well as the socket on the vehicle itself. Different chargers use different connectors, depending on the kW rating.
On the vehicle-side, there are two socket types. European manufacturers use a Type 2 inlet socket with CCS rapid standard fitted, while Asian manufacturers prefer a Type 1 and CHAdeMO inlet socket.
You’ll notice that the cable attached to a rapid charger has a beefier plug compared to fast and slow chargers – that’s the part of the plug that uses the CCS and CHAdeMO standards, meaning the vehicle can access rapid charging where available.
We know – the amount of information on electric vehicles can be a little overwhelming. What’s for sure, though, is that EVs are the future, and what better time to embrace the future than now?