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There are many reasons to consider switching from a gasoline-powered car, to one that’s powered by electricity. Electric vehicles are quieter, cost less to operate and produce far fewer total emissions well to wheel. However, not all electric cars and plugs are created equal. In particular, the EV charging connector or plug type standard varies across geographies and models. While there is contention around universal plug technology, there is critical mass from global automakers supporting the Combined Charging System (CCS) in North America and Europe, while Japan and its automakers use CHAdeMO, and China, which has the world’s largest electric vehicle market uses GB/T.

Also, depending on the plug type within each region, there are different levels of power available. We will zero in on all these differences and other relevant information regarding charging electric vehicles below.

North American EV Plug Standards

In North America, every electric vehicle manufacturer (except Tesla) uses the SAE J1772 connector, also known as the J-plug, for Level 1 (120 volt) and Level 2 (240 volt) charging. Tesla provides an adapter cable with every car they sell that allows their cars to use charging stations that have a J1772 connector. This means that every electric vehicle sold in North America can use any charging station that comes with the standard J1772 connector.

That’s important to know because every non-Tesla level 1 or level 2 charging station sold in North America utilizes the J1772 connector. For example, all of our JuiceBox products use the standard J1772 connector. However, Tesla vehicles can charge on any JuiceBox charging station, by using the adapter cable that Tesla includes with the car. Tesla makes their own charging stations, that use a proprietary Tesla connector, and EVs from other brands cannot use them unless they purchase an adapter.

This might seem a little confusing, but one way to look at it is any electric vehicle you buy today can use a charging station that has a J1772 connector, and every level 1 or level 2 charging station available today uses the J1772 connector, except those made by Tesla.

DC Fast Charge EV Plug Standards in North America

It’s a little more complicated for DC fast charging, which is high-speed EV charging that is only available in public areas, most frequently along major freeways where long-distance travel is common. DC fast chargers aren’t available for at home charging, as the electricity requirements are usually not available in residential buildings. Also, it’s not recommended to use DC fast charging stations more than once or twice a week, because the high rate of recharging can adversely affect the lifespan of an electric car’s battery if done too often.

DC fast chargers use 480 volts and can recharge an electric vehicle faster than your standard charging unit, in as little as 20 minutes, thus allowing for convenient long-distance EV travel, without the concern of running out of juice. Unfortunately, instead of only two different connectors, as used in level 1 and level 2 charging (J1772 and Tesla), DC Fast Chargers use three different types of connectors.

CCS (Combined Charging System): The CCS connector uses the J1772 charging inlet, and adds two more pins below. It “combines” the J1772 connector with the high speed charging pins, which is how it got its name. CCS is the accepted standard in North America, and was developed and endorsed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Just about every automaker today has agreed to use the CCS standard in North America, including: General Motors (all divisions), Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Honda, Kia, Fiat, Hyundai, Volvo, smart, MINI, Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley, Rolls Royce and others.

CHAdeMO: CHAdeMo was developed by the Japanese utility Tepco. It is the official standard in Japan, and virtually all DC fast chargers in Japan use a CHAdeMO connector. It’s different in North America, where the only manufacturers currently selling electric vehicles that use the CHAdeMO connector are Nissan and Mitsubishi. The Nissan LEAF and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV are the only electric vehicles that use the CHAdeMO EV charging connector type. In 2018, Kia abandoned CHAdeMO and now offers CCS. Unlike the CCS system, CHAdeMO connectors do not share part of the connector with the J1772 inlet, so they require an additional ChadeMO inlet on the car. This necessitates a larger charge port area, to accommodate two separate charging sockets.

Tesla: Tesla uses the same connector for level 1, level 2 and DC fast charge. It’s a proprietary Tesla connector that accepts all voltage, so there’s no need to have a different connector specifically for DC fast charge, as the other standards require. Only Tesla vehicles can use their DC fast chargers, called Superchargers. Tesla installed and maintains these stations, and they are for the exclusive use of Tesla customers. Even with an adapter cable, it would not be possible to charge a non-tesla EV at a Tesla Supercharger station. That’s because there is an authentication process that identifies the vehicle as a Tesla before it grants access to the power.

European EV Plug Standards

In Europe, EV charging connector types are similar to North America, but there are a few differences. First, the standard household electricity is 230 volts, nearly twice the voltage as what is used in North America. For this reason, there’s no “level 1” charging in Europe. Secondly, instead of the J1772 connector, the standard used by all manufacturers except Tesla in Europe is the IEC 62196 Type 2 connector, commonly referred to as mennekes.

However, Tesla recently switched from their proprietary connector to the Type 2 connector for the Model 3. Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles sold in Europe still use the Tesla connector, but speculation is that they too will eventually switch to the Type 2 connector in Europe.

DC fast charging in Europe is also the same as in North America, where CCS is the standard used by virtually all manufacturers, except Nissan, Mitsubishi. The CCS system in Europe combines the Type 2 connector with the tow dc fast charge pins the same way it does in North America with the J1772 connector, so while it’s also called CCS, it’s a slightly different connector. The Tesla Model 3 now uses the European CCS charging system in Europe, and Tesla has outfitted their Supercharger stations to also have a CCS connector.

How do I know which connector my electric vehicle uses?

While it may seem like a lot to learn, it’s really pretty simple. For level 1 and level 2 charging, all electric cars use the connector that is the standard in their respective markets, North America, Europe, China, Japan, etc. The sole exception being Tesla, but all of its cars come with an adapter cable to power with the market standard. Non-Tesla electric vehicles can also use Tesla Level 1 or 2 charging stations but they need to use an adapter which can be purchased from a third party vendor.

For DC fast charging, Tesla has a proprietary network of Supercharger stations that only Tesla vehicles can use, no adapter will work on these stations because there’s an authentication process. Nissan and Mitsubishi cars use the Japanese standard CHAdeMO, and virtually every other electric vehicle uses the CCS charging standard.

There are smartphone apps like Plugshare, that list all of the publicly available EV charging stations, and specify the plug type or connector.

If you are interested in electric car charging at home and are concerned with different EV charging connector types, there’s no need to fret. Every charging unit  in your respective market will come with the industry standard connector that your EV uses. In North America that will be the J1772, and in Europe it’s the Type 2. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our customer support team, they’ll be happy to answer any electric vehicle charging questions you may have.