A closer look at DC charging

May 19, 2021

When it comes to electric mobility, you may already be aware of some of the differences between AC and DC charging. But when you’re thinking about investing in high-power DC charging stations, there’s much more to consider. 

DC charging is often the best option for businesses looking to provide electric vehicle (EV) charging as a service or help electrify their own vehicle fleet. However, like almost every other hardware product that’s ever existed, DC charging stations come in different shapes and sizes.

Let's start with the bigger picture

When it comes to DC charging stations, you’ll want to know exactly how big or small your shiny new station’s footprint is. In reality, it may actually have two feet.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of DC charging station architecture: standalone and split. 

Standalone charging stations are comprised of a single unit and can usually deliver between 50kW and roughly 250kW of power. Because of this, standalone charging stations can help businesses efficiently utilize the space at their location.

Charging stations with split architecture, as you can imagine, often come with two main components: a user unit and a power unit.

The user unit is essentially the customer-facing part of the charging station. Here, drivers plug in their EVs and initiate a charging session via a type of user interface such as a digital display that also allows charge cards, tokens, key fobs, and credit cards to be swiped.

The power unit contains power converters (converting AC grid power to DC) that deliver DC power to the user unit. These units are often located behind the scenes and out of a driver’s line of sight.

Charging stations with split architecture offer a slightly higher power output than standalone stations: usually between 175kW and 350kW. This is due to having an entire unit dedicated to receiving, converting, and delivering power. Yes, the overall footprint is larger with two separate units, but the driver often only sees and interacts with the sleeker, more aesthetically pleasing user unit.


Untangling charging cables (and charging times)

DC charging stations come with fixed cables that are attached to the station itself. AC charging can often be facilitated with loose cables usually kept in the trunk of an EV—but that’s not what we’re talking about now.

Despite being attached to the charging station, fixed DC charging cables often have power outputs that aren’t always equipped to deliver the maximum power from a DC charging station to an EV. Yes, you read that correctly. 

However, it’s not just cables and charging stations that determine the power that eventually flows to an EV and dictates the time it takes a battery to fill up. EVs are also limited in the amount of power that they can receive, something that is often overlooked by drivers.

Making the connection

When it comes to EV charging, connectors are the end of a fixed cable that attaches to the socket of an EV. EVs are compatible with different connectors depending on the country in which the vehicle was made. It's good to know that sockets can refer to both an EV’s inlet as well as the port on a charging station that accepts loose AC charging cables. 

Until the late 2010s, the European market was dominated by EVs from Japan and South Korea, such as the Nissan Leaf. Therefore, most AC and DC charging stations are equipped with CHAdeMO (Japanese standard) as well as CCS2 (European standard) sockets and cables.

However, in 2020, Nissan announced that its EVs made for Europe will use CCS2 as well. This means that unless local requirements stipulate otherwise, your charging location should mainly consist of stations offering CCS2 compatibility.

In addition, many regions require a standard AC socket to be available on the DC station; allowing EVs with the more common Type 2 socket to make use of the location.

North America follows the same path as Europe. For some time, there has been a healthy rivalry between CCS1 (the original charging standard) and CHAdeMO. However, Nissan’s decision to launch vehicles with CCS1 compatibility in North America has strengthened the standard's position in the EV market. 

Japan and China also have their own standards, with Japan using CHAdeMO and China relying on GB/T. The preference of other regions simply depends on the most popular EVs and their respective requirements.


What does this all mean for businesses and drivers?

Charging times. That’s the bottom line. The output of the charging station will greatly impact how fast an EV charges. Offering high-power DC fast charging at your location could be the difference between a one-off customer and a loyal, repeat customer that has suddenly found the best place in town to charge their EV and grab a bite to eat. Below, you can see the charging times for a variety of EV types.


Our DC portfolio

We provide a range of DC charging stations as part of our end-to-end electric vehicle charging solutions for businesses around the world. For a complete list of tech specs and use cases, as well as more information, take a look at our portfolio of DC charging stations designed for every business looking to electrify its operation.


Learn what DC charging can mean for your business

Read our free ebook to get a complete overview of all fast EV charging possibilities, their differences, and what to look out for before investing.

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