Are All Electric Vehicle Plugs The Same?


Electric vehicles are run on electricity, and just like any other electrical device like a phone or computer, they need to be plugged in. There are all sorts of different chargers you can plug into your car, each with different charging speeds. But what about the plugs?

Are all electric vehicle plugs the same? No, all electric vehicle plugs are not the same. Different types of electric vehicle manufacturers make different kinds of plugs for their cars. Though some electric vehicles of different models may have the same plug, there are many different shapes and sizes of plugs that are used, each depending on the type of electric vehicle you have. 

Just as an iPhone doesn’t have the same plug as a Samsung Galaxy, a Tesla doesn’t have the same plug as a Mustang Mach-E. Companies have developed different styles of plugs for their different vehicles. So when buying a charger and charging cord for your electric vehicle, make sure you are getting the right plug, or else you’ll find your electric vehicle quickly low on energy. And if you don’t know the difference between them, this article can help you learn the quick facts.

Are All Electric Vehicle Plugs The Same?

Luckily, there isn’t too wide of a variety of electric vehicle plugs, they have been made pretty standard. That isn’t to say they are all the same though. Some companies, like Tesla, have made their own plug shape. It is unknown exactly what the motivation for differing from the standard plug these companies had, whether this is purely to be more unique or in an effort to make extra money by forcing owners to buy adapters. 

Different electric vehicle plugs handle different types of electrical current and different amounts of voltage and amperage. Electric vehicles have different rates at which they can convert AC (known as alternating current) electricity to DC (and direct current) electricity that the car can use, so make sure that you are aware of this and don’t buy a plug that is able to have a much higher amperage than your car can handle.

Some plugs and chargers like Tesla superchargers can actually greatly decrease the battery life of your car if you use them too often. An electric car is already expensive enough, you don’t need to replace the battery just because of the ease of convenience.

Shapes And Names Of Different Electric Vehicle Plugs

Right now, there are 5 types of standard chargers, 6 if you want to include the type of plug Tesla uses with its supercharging network, being used all around the world. Two of these types of plugs are used for AC charging; another 2 are used for charging when using DC. One of these types of plugs can be used for both AC and DC charging. Not all types of chargers are used in each part of the world, different parts of the world use different types of plugs as the “standard”. 

3 pin and Type 1 plugs are used for AC charging. Type 2 plugs give you the liberty of using AC or DC charging. CHAdeMO, yes that is the actual name of a type of plug, is used for DC charging. The CHAdeMO was developed in Japan and is mainly used in Japanese make electric vehicles like Honda, Kia, and Nissans. The last type that is used is the CCS or Combined Charging System. 

CCS are just like the Type 1 plug but with an added two pins underneath, thus the reason for the word ‘combined’ in the name “combined charging system”. These two pins are used for the purpose of quick charging vehicles. An added two pins allow for the extra electricity to get into the car more quickly without damaging or overloading the charging wires or the electric vehicle. This is a great way to rethink the plug and it is one idea that actually makes a difference in charging.

Type 1 plugs are pretty standard in America and Asia but they are more rarely found in Europe. Type 1 plugs have the capacity to charge up to a speed of 7.4 kW but the exact speed at which they will charge depends on the electrical grid you are on and the rate at which your electric car can convert AC to DC. Type 1 plugs can most commonly be found on level 1 chargers. Level 2 or higher chargers usually have CCS plugs since the CCS plugs were specifically designed for faster charging. 

Will All Plugs Be Universal Someday?

Only time will tell if all plugs for electric vehicles will eventually be universal. If I were to make my best-educated guess, I would say no, I don’t think they will. Look at the example of regular electrical outlets for phone plugs. Different countries and different parts of the world use differently shaped electrical outlets. Companies like Apple and Samsung use differently shaped plugs for their electronics. 

Creating one universal plug would require some major collaboration between all of the electric vehicle companies which is very unlikely because there always seems to be someone who wants to be different than the crowd. A universal plug would also require wiring and connectors that can effectively charge at low and high wattage rates and be able to handle AC and DC electricity. 

Even though we still might be waiting on an internationally standard plug, different electric car markets are moving towards having a standard with each other. As will be mentioned later on in the article, different parts of the world use different types of plugs. Europe, Asia, and North America have basically made their “standard” plug, even though there might be some variation. For example, in North America, almost all car companies (there are some exceptions, of course,) have determined to use the CCS1 plug as the standard plug on their vehicles. 

How To Tell What Voltage/Amperage A Plug Is Just From Looking At It

All of these different types of plugs have different looks so here is a rule to help you recognize the different types of plugs that are out there. You shouldn’t have to worry about mixing up chargers and using the wrong plug with your car because the plugs all have different shapes. This means that they won’t be able to fit in your car if you don’t have the right plug.

 As a general rule of thumb, the more holes there are, the higher the voltage/amperage of the plug will be. This is because the higher the voltage/amperage a plug pumps into the car the more wires are needed so that the wires don’t burn up. This in turn allows a faster charge for your electric car. But this isn’t true in every instance.

Are American Plugs The Same As The Rest Of The World?

The most universal and standard plug in the United States is called the J-1772 plugs. These plugs are found on almost all public charging station chargers, besides Tesla charging station chargers of course. The J-1772 is standard whether you are using a level 1 or level 2 charger. J-1772 are also called Type 1 chargers or J-plugs for short. These plugs were originally made in 2001 but were redesigned to be more effective and are now the standard plug used in the United States. 

The CCS-Type 1 is also used in the United States. It looks like a regular Type 1 charger with an extra attachment on the bottom. The CCS chargers are used for charging when using DC. These are the two types of chargers that are most commonly used in the United States but there are other types of plug shapes that can be found, though these plugs are not standard for the world. 

In Europe and Asia, the plug types that are used as standard vary as well. China uses a plug the GB/T for AC electricity and for DC, the plug is still called a GB/T but it has a slightly different shape than the plug that is used with AC. Most of Europe uses what is called a Type 2 charger. Type 2 chargers are very similar in shape to the GB/T charger that is used in China. In Europe, the most common DC plug is CCS-Type 2 plugs, as you would probably guess these look a lot like the CCS plugs that are used in the United States but the top part of the plug looks like the Type 2 plug. 

Japan is another country where electric cars are growing in popularity. Japan, even though it has a close proximity to China, uses the J1772 Type 1 charger, just like the United States does. Even though Japan uses the same charger for AC it does use a different charger than the CCS Type  1 charger for DC. When charging with DC the most common plug type is called a CHAdeMO charger. As an added note, Tesla is in a special class of its own and has created a plug type specifically for its electric vehicles. 

Another thing to add is that these plugs aren’t limited to being found in the countries where they were developed. For example, Nissan Leafs are built to have the CHAdeMO plug that was developed and is mainly used in Japan, which makes sense seeing that Nissan vehicles are made in Japan. The same goes for cars that are made in Germany or in Europe. The plug on the vehicle will most likely reflect the type of plug that is most popular in the country where it was manufactured. 

Does Every Car Have Multiple Plug Types Built-In?

In reality, no, most electric cars come with one standard plug type that the manufacturer designed it with. The only exception to this is when a car has a CCS2 or a CCS1 charging plug it can then use the CCS plugs as well as the non-quick charging plug that goes along with that, either the Type 2 or Type 1 plugs. If you have a Ford with a CCS1 plug then, unfortunately, there is no way you can charge it with a CHAdeMo plug like the Nissan Leaf uses or a Tesla charging plug, unless you have an adapter. 

In fact, I don’t know of or have been able to find any electric vehicles that have multiple plug types built-in, but that doesn’t mean you will only ever be able to use the plug that is built in to your electric vehicle. How is that possible though? It is possible the same way that it is possible for you to charge your phone with a charger that is not made for it, adapters. 

There are adapters made for most plug types, so you have options of what you can buy for your electric vehicles. Perhaps you have a Tesla charging station by your work or by where you spend most of your day and would love to charge your electric car that doesn’t happen to be a Tesla. There is an adapter for that! That specific adapter will cost you about $150 but depending on what adapter you get it could cost you anywhere from about $75 dollars to $150 dollars. 

Is It Safe To Use An Adapter From One Type Of Plug To Another? 

Plug adapters are designed to go specifically from one type of plug to another plug shape, so if you can fit it then you shouldn’t have to worry too much. Though there is some caution that you need to use because different plugs are used for different voltages and even different types of electricity. Make sure you read up on the warnings and propers uses of the plugs because if your charging plug and cord become overloaded, it could lead to electrocution and/or an electrical fire. 

Most plugs are built safely and have safety precautions to avoid dangerous situations like electrocution or electric fires, but when you are looking at what plug adapter to purchase, make sure you do your research and pick out one that will work efficiently and keep you safe. Saving a few bucks on a cheaply made or questionable adapter is not worth it if it leads to hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of damage. 

Electric car plug adapters work a lot like a phone charger adapters. With most adapters, the electricity isn’t being converted in any way but they are simply providing a channel for the electricity to move from one shaped plug into another shaped plug. As I warned earlier, adapters can be a danger if they are overloaded. They can act as a weak point in the system and can cause problems. These concerns may scare you a bit, but if you do your research on them, the adapters you buy should be safe to use with your electric vehicles. 

Why Do Some Car Manufacturers Create Their Own Type Of Plug?

While there may be some smaller electric car companies that make their own unique connector, Tesla is the main one that you need to know about. Tesla created a connector type that is totally unique to Tesla’s but is at least standard across all Tesla’s models. According to business-standard.com, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, when asked why Tesla has its own unique type of plug shape said that the main reason is that back when Tesla started, there was no standard connector shape for long range electric vehicles, so they created their own. 

This statement might be partially true, seeing that Tesla was founded all the way back in 2003 long before electric cars started picking up at all. But now that Tesla has done this, it gives Tesla the chance to make a lot more money because they have their own charging stations. If anyone doesn’t have Tesla but wants to use their charger, they would have to buy an adapter for the Tesla connector shape.

 Negatively, it makes it inconvenient for Tesla owners if they want to use other types of chargers besides Tesla’s charging network. Teslas do come standard with a J1772 adapter, however, which is the most standard type of connector, so you don’t have to worry about that. But if you would want to use a level 2 charger or level 3 charger, you are going to have to buy an adapter for that. 

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