Back to articles

Infrastructure

EV charging cables and EV charging plugs explained

November 19, 2021 | Camille Charluet & Wesley van Barlingen

The greatest difference a driver will experience between a vehicle with an internal combustion engine (ICE) and an electric vehicle (EV) is how they refuel. While filling up a conventional vehicle with petrol or diesel is relatively straightforward (unless you fill up your car with the wrong type of fuel...), EVs require drivers to change their behavior. And just like anything new, transitioning to electric mobility means getting your head around a fresh set of rules and terminology.

For many new EV drivers, this can be confusing at times. What’s the difference between AC and DC charging for instance? Or perhaps, between the three different levels of EV charging? With so many new terms being thrown around—and with industry leaders and newcomers alike adopting technology and terms that suit them—it’s easy for you to get lost. 

One of the topics which EV drivers find most confusing is around charging cables and plugs. As there isn’t (yet) a universal connector for EVs, charging stations, charging cables, and plugs come in many shapes and sizes. They differ based on the country you’re in, the vehicle you drive, and the type of charging station you intend to use. 

With so many variables, choosing the right cable for your charging needs can seem daunting—but it doesn’t have to be. Read on as we untangle the differences between EV charging cables and plugs so that you can charge confidently wherever you go.

A smartly-dressed professional man wearing sunglasses on his way to plug in his Tesla Model 3 into an EVBox charging station in a parking lot.

What is an EV charging cable?

While some charging stations come with cables attached and others require you to bring your own, charging cables are an essential part of charging an electric vehicle. Charging cables come in four forms or “modes” and each is used for a certain type of charging. It may get a bit confusing, seeing that the mode does not necessarily correlate to the “level” of charging. In this section, we aim to unpack the difference between Mode 1, Mode 2, Mode 3, and Mode 4 charging cables and which is best suited for what type of charging.

Electric car cable types

Mode 1 charging cables

With a Mode 1 cable, you simply connect an EV to a standard AC socket-outlet using an extension cord and standard plug. As a result, there is no communication between the vehicle and the charging point, meaning that there are no special safety systems or shock protection. This type of charging is useful for light electric vehicles like e-bikes and scooters, but it’s not considered safe for electric cars and is prohibited in many parts of the world.

Mode 2 charging cables

When you purchase an EV, it will typically come with what’s known as a Mode 2 charging cable as standard. These cables plug into your EV on one end, and a standard domestic socket on the other and the cable comes with In-Cable Control and Protection Device (IC-CPD) which is responsible for the control and communication between and the protection of the standard wall plug and the EV. While this charging method is undoubtedly convenient; as most household outlets only deliver up to 2.3 kW of power, charging using this method can take a long time. It can also be dangerous if done incorrectly. Therefore, we only recommend using this charging cable if it’s an emergency. Find out more about how to charge your electric car safely.

Mode 3 charging cables

Mode 3 cables are currently the most common way to charge an EV across the globe. A Mode 3 charging cable connects your vehicle to a dedicated EV charging station—like those found in workplaces and offices, homes and residential locations, and commercial and public parking lots. These cables are in charge of the control, communication, and protection of the charging process and usually connect to charging plugs like Type 1 or Type 2. 

Mode 4 charging cables

As the first three modes send AC power to the vehicle and that power is converted via an onboard AC/DC converter, they stand separate from Mode 4. Mode 4 charging cables, on the other hand, are specifically used for DC charging, and the power is converted before it's transferred to the vehicle. Often known as fast charging or ultra-fast charging, when you charge an EV with DC, you can significantly reduce charging times. However, as this type of charging transfers much more power directly to the battery of an EV, the cables must be permanently connected to the charging station and are often liquid-cooled to handle the heat. 

A semi-casual EV driver plugging in his vehicle to a public EVBox charging station in Amsterdam.

What is an EV charging plug?

A charging plug is the connector that you insert into the charging socket of an electric vehicle. Just like how the plugs of appliances differ depending on the country you're in, EV charging plugs and sockets also vary depending on the vehicle brand, charging level, and country they are manufactured in. Luckily though, most countries follow the below standards.

EV charging plug types

AC charging plugs

Plug type Design Power output* Locations
Type 1 A Type 1 plug for charging an EV with AC power. Up to 7.4 kW Japan and North America
Type 2 A Type 2 plug for charging an EV with AC power. Up to 22 kW for private charging

Up to 43 kW for public charging
Europe and the rest of the world
GB/T A GT/B plug for charging an EV with AC power. Up to 7.4 kW China

*These numbers represent the maximum power output that a plug can deliver at the time of writing this article. The numbers do not reflect actual power outputs as this is also dependent on the charging station, charging cable and the receptive vehicle. 

Type 1 charging plug

Type 1 plugs—also referred to as SAE J1772—are most commonly used with vehicle models found in Japan and North America. They are single-phase and can deliver a power output of up to 7.4 kW.

Type 2 charging plug

Type 2 plugs—also referred to as “Mennekes” in reference to the German company that originally designed them—are the official plug standard for the European Union. These three-phase plugs have a higher power transfer capacity than Type 1 plugs, delivering up to 22 kW for private charging, and up to 43 kW for public charging.

GB/T charging plug

China developed its own charging system referred to by its Guobiao national standards as GB/T. There are two variations of GB/T plugs: one for AC charging and one for DC fast charging. The GB/T AC charging plug is single-phase, delivering up to 7.4 kW. While it looks the same as the Type 2 plug, don’t be fooled—its pins and receptors are reversed.

DC charging plugs

Plug Type Design Power output* Locations
CCS1 A CCS1 plug for charging an EV with DC power. Up to 350 kW North America
CCS2 A CCS2 plug for charging an EV with DC power. Up to 350 kW Europe
CHAdeMO A CHAdeMO plug for charging an EV with DC power. Up to 200 kW Japan
GB/T A GT/B plug for charging an EV with DC power. Up to 237.5 kW China
*These numbers represent the maximum power output that a plug can deliver at the time of writing this article. The numbers do not reflect actual power outputs as this is also dependent on the charging station, charging cable and the receptive vehicle. 

CCS charging plug

The Combined Charging System or CCS for short is the fast charging plug standard in North America (CCS1) and Europe (CCS2). It’s called a combined charging system because it supports both AC and DC charging.

CCS1

The CCS1 plug is an enhanced version of the Type 1 AC plug with an additional two power contacts to enable DC fast charging. CCS1 is the most common fast charging plug across North America besides Tesla's Supercharger technology which has its own plug and can charge at speeds of up to 350 kW.

CCS2

The CCS2, on the other hand, is an enhanced version of the Type 2 AC plug with an additional two power contacts to enable DC fast charging. CCS plugs can deliver between 50 kW and 350 kW of DC power. AC charging is also supported by plugging a standard Type 1 (for CCS1) or Type 2 (for CCS2) plug into the upper half of the plug while leaving the lower DC power contacts empty.

CHAdeMO charging plug

Developed in Japan, most CHAdeMO charging plug enables fast charging of up to 200 kW as well as bidirectional charging. At the moment, Asia is leading the way in manufacturing EVs compatible with CHAdeMO plugs and CHAdeMO announced that they've developed technology that can charge between 200kW - 400kW. However, these speeds are not widely available across Europe and North America—where CHAdeMO usually only goes up to 63 kW—and will become more common in Asia as time goes on. You may also find CHAdeMo plugs in Europe, however, since 2018, they have slowly been phased out as CCS2 surpassed these charging speeds and became the gold standard across the continent.

GB/T charging plug

The current GB/T DC charging plug can deliver up to 237.5 kW.  China’s Electricity Council is also currently developing a new version, in partnership with the CHAdeMO Association, that could deliver up to a whopping 900 kW. This latest version—called ChaoJi—enables DC charging with over 500 kW while ensuring the connector to be light and compact with a smaller diameter cable, thanks to the liquid-cooling technology as well as to the removal of the locking mechanism from the connector to the vehicle side. With two of the biggest EV markets already on board, and others including India and South Korea also expressing their strong interests, ChaoJi could rival CCS2 as the dominant standard in the future.

Tesla charging plug

With 30,000+ Superchargers, Tesla owns and operates the largest global, fast charging network in the world. Until recently, this network was exclusively for Tesla drivers, however, in 2021, Elon Musk announced that the Supercharger network would open up to other vehicles. The Supercharger has its own proprietary plug, which looks like a regular AC Type 2 socket but does not allow other non-Teslas to charge. While Tesla's Supercharger network dominates the North American charging market, they have, however, made concessions in Europe and begun building their vehicles with CCS2. At the same time, Tesla announced that their CCS to Tesla proprietary plug adapter is finally coming—allowing Tesla drivers outside of Europe to charge at non-Tesla DC charging stations.

Ready to start charging?

With so many charging cables and plug types out there, it can be confusing to know which one is right for your vehicle. We hope this article has helped you get your head around the most common types so you can start charging with ease.

All EVBox AC charging stations are compatible with Type 1 or Type 2 connectors. As these connectors are the standard in most countries, you can confidently use EVBox charging stations to charge your EV. EVBox fast chargers are compatible with CCS1, CCS2, and/or CHAdeMO connectors to ensure they work with most EVs on the market.

If you’d like to learn more about EV charging cables and plugs, check out our website for a closer look at the EV charging possibilities out there.

Back to top  

You may also like

Suggested

The 10 most popular electric cars of 2021 and how long it takes to charge them

Keep reading

You may also like

Suggested

Where to charge an electric car?

Keep reading

Share:

Related Articles

Article

Infrastructure

The 10 most popular electric cars of 2021 and how long it takes to charge them

Discover which cars were the most popular in 2021 and learn how long it takes to charge them.

Keep reading

Article

Infrastructure

Where to charge an electric car?

Find out about the five different locations where EV drivers can choose to charge their electric car and which is most popular amongst drivers.

Keep reading

Article

Infrastructure

The history of electric cars

Discover the history of electric vehicles (it's longer than you might think), where we are today, and what the future holds for electric mobility.

Keep reading

Updates from the beating heart of the electric mobility industry

Updates from the beating heart of the eMobility industry

Subscribe to the EVBox Newsletter for the latest updates, articles, and opinions on all things eMobility