EV Charger Types: CSS, CHAdeMO, and More
Wouldn’t it be great if every electric vehicle was compatible with every type of charger? There may come a time when universal chargers are a thing, but for now, EV drivers need to be prepared to deal with several different charger types.
Some automakers have their own connector types — such as Tesla’s Supercharger — but you can buy adapters for use on other charging networks.
Choosing the right EV charger type will ensure that your battery charges at the optimal speed, whether you use Level 1, Level 2, or fast charging.
Here’s what you need to know about the EV charger types currently available for battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in the U.S.
What Are the Main EV Charger Types?
When we talk about EV charger types, we’re really talking about the type of plug or connector you use to plug into a charging station.
After all, the term “charger” is often used interchangeably to describe the home or public charging unit (known as electric vehicle supply equipment, or EVSE), and the onboard charger that connects directly to the battery.
This article is all about the connector types on either end of the charging cable. You can learn more about types of home charging units here.
How Many EV Charger Types Are There?
It’s hard to give an exact number of how many EV charger types there are because EV charging standards vary widely around the world. For example, you’ll have a different set of options if you buy an electric car in Europe or China than if you buy one in North America.
One group of scientists at Purdue University is even working on a charging system that can charge EVs through the surface of the road.
Fortunately, most of us don’t pack our cars in our carry-on luggage, so you won’t need to carry around every type of connector that’s available.
We’ve focused this article on EV charger types used in North America so that you can choose one or more connectors that are common in your region.
Standard Electric Vehicle Charging
Standard electric vehicle charging includes Level 1 and Level 2 charging because they use the same connector type. Level 1 charging refers to a 120-volt wall outlet (the slowest charging method). Level 2 charging refers to 240-volt home chargers and public charging stations that use alternating current (AC charging).
But which charging connectors do you need for this type of charger, and what kind of charging speeds do they support?
In North America, the most common charging plug for Level 1 and 2 charging is the SAE J1772 charger. It has five pins and can deliver up to 7 kW of power.
Most home charging stations are compatible with this type of connector. However, since it’s a single-phase cable, you can’t use it for multiple charging speeds.
The Type 2 connector is more common in Europe than in North America. It has seven pins and a locking feature that delivers a more secure connection.
It can switch between three power phases and can even communicate with your EV’s battery to detect when it’s plugged in.
Like the SAE J1772, you can only use the Type 2 connector for Level 1 and 2 charging, so you’ll need a different connector to use a DC fast charger.
DC Fast Charging
Standard chargers are great for home and workplace charging, where you have the time to leave your EV plugged in all day or all night.
But if you’re heading out on a road trip, you’ll want to take one of these charger types so you can access fast charging stations wherever you go.
CCS (Combined Charging System)
The Combined Charging System, or CCS connector, can be used for multiple types of charging, including Level 1, Level 2, and direct current charging (DC charging).
It has a seven-pin plug with an additional two-pin attachment. CCS chargers are some of the fastest EV charging options available, with the ability to reach 350 kW charging speeds on some networks.
Which automakers use CCS chargers? You’ll find them on new cars by Volkswagen, BMW, and General Motors, among other brands.
CHAdeMo is a common EV charger used on vehicles made in Japan. You’ll find this connection type on the Nissan LEAF and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Most of the other chargers don’t use a separate socket, but the CHAdeMO connector does; that means you’ll find two sockets side-by-side when you open up the onboard charging port on your vehicle.
CHAdeMO connectors can support speeds of up to 400 kW — more than any existing EV can handle. That means you’ll be limited by the speed of your charging station or onboard charger, not by the CHAdeMO connection.
Finally, you can use the Tesla charger for all charging levels, but it’s only compatible with Tesla wall chargers and the Supercharger network.
The good news is that Tesla provides a J1772 adapter with every Tesla model, and you can buy a spare for $50 on their website. That will allow you to plug into most home or public charging stations without any issue.
As for DC fast charging, you’ll want to pick up a CHAdeMO or CCS connector (or both) if you’re traveling through a region without many Supercharger locations.
Which EV Charger Type Should You Use?
If you plan to do most of your charging at home or at Level 2 charging stations, there’s only one EV charger type that you need: the SAE J1772 charger. This is actually the best charging option since it puts less strain on your battery than DC charging.
For fast charging, your automaker will make the decision for you: European and U.S. brands tend to use CCS chargers, and Japanese brands use CHAdeMO. Most popular EV charging networks, such as ChargePoint and Blink, have both CCS and CHAdeMO chargers, so you won’t need to worry too much about compatibility.
Tesla vehicles use their proprietary charger for all charging levels. Technically, it’s the only charger you need, but you won’t be able to use CHAdeMO or CCS chargers without an adapter, so it may be worth getting one just in case.
Unfortunately, the reverse isn’t an option yet — there aren’t any adapters for non-Tesla vehicles to use the Supercharger network at the moment.
How to Find EV Charging Stations
Whether you’re looking for Tesla charging stations in Texas or CHAdeMO chargers in California, EV charging infrastructure is more widespread than ever.
You can download an EV charging app to see which charging stations are available in real-time and even reserve one in advance.
Some states offer tax incentives for installing a home charger, and you can always ask your boss to consider installing a charging station where you work.
Choose the Right EV for You
Choosing a new EV can be a bit of a crash course in charging options and connection types. But before you install a home charging station or purchase a J1772 adapter, it’s important to find an EV that you’ll actually want to drive.
From seating capacity to miles of range, there are many things to consider before buying an electric vehicle.
Compare EVs Near You
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