Plugging in an EV isn’t quite as simple as filling a fuel tank – you need to know what connector types your car can accept charge from. This guide explains all
While EV connectors and plugs have now been mostly standardised in Europe, you’re still likely to encounter a handful of different varieties if you’re shopping for a used or nearly new electric car.
This guide will talk you through the different connector types EVs you’ll find on the UK’s roads, and the different charging options those connectors bring you.
Types of EV plugs
If you’re charging your EV from a typical AC connection in the UK, such as a wall-mounted charging point at home or at work, you’ll be using one of three different connector types.
By far, the most common plug used in the UK is the Type 2 connector, also known as Mennekes connector after the German company that developed it. From 2014 onwards, this connector was declared the European standard and the overwhelming majority of EVs sold across the continent now use this connector.
The acceptance of Type 2 as the standard EV connector in Europe means that Type 1 connectors – also called J1772 – have now mostly been phased out. Type 1 connectors have, however, remained the standard for EVs in North America. In the UK, you’re only likely to encounter a Type 1 plug on early first-generation EVs, along with slightly older versions of the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. If your EV uses a Type 1 connector, you can buy a fairly inexpensive passive adapter that allows you to connect to a Type 2 port.
Finally, the only other type of EV connector you’re likely to encounter in the UK is called CHAdeMO, originally developed in Japan. Unlike Type 1 and Type 2 connectors that can only handle AC power, CHAdeMO was designed only for high-voltage DC charging, which meant carmakers needed to install a separate port for slower AC charging. This limitation led to CHAdeMO falling out of favour and it’s now mostly vanished from the marketplace. You’ll find this connector type on older Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV cars.
Rapid EV chargers
While Type 2 and Type 1 connectors can handle AC power, allowing users to charge up in a few hours at home or at work, they can’t accept high-voltage DC charging. Compared to AC charging which typically fills an EV at a rate of around 7kW, DC chargers often operate between 50 and 150kW. This much power makes it possible for some EVs to gain around 80% charge in just half an hour.
Neither Type 2 nor Type 1 connectors can handle DC power, which has led to the development of CCS – also known as combined charging system. This connector uses either a Type 2 or Type 1 plug as its top half, while adding an oval-shaped secondary connector below it to handle high-voltage DC power. You can use just the top half on its own for AC charging, or use the whole CCS connector to enable faster DC charging speeds. In Europe, you’ll only find CCS2 connectors to match the standardisation of Type 2 plugs.
The good news is you don’t need to become an electrician to understand what type of charging your EV can accept. All EVs and EV chargers communicate digitally with each other to safely deliver a rate of power the car can accept. All you need to do as the user is simply match the correct plug to the connector, plug them in and let the system do the work for you.
How do I know which connector my EV uses?
If you’re buying an EV in the UK, there’s a very good chance the car will come with a Type 2 charging connector, likely as part of a CCS2, because these have been the industry standard for several years now. Only if you’re buying an older plug-in model such as an early Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV or Kia Soul EV is there a possibility you might need to deal with one of the other connector types.
Type 2 connectors are also quite easy to visually tell apart from their Type 1 and CHAdeMO counterparts simply by looking at them. Type 2 plugs have a distinctive flattened top, whereas Type 1 and CHAdeMO are much more obviously round in shape.
If you’re still not sure what connector your EV uses, consult your car’s manual which will include a section on charging guidance that should explain what type of plug you’ll need to find. Alternatively, the dealer or store you purchase your car from should be able to talk you through your charging options.
Sparked your interest in EVs?
If you’re thinking of trading into an electric vehicle, why not take a look at our complete guide to home charging – the most cost-effective way to run a battery-powered car. If you’re not sure what models are available, check out our picks for the best affordable EVs on sale.