The first step to learning about electric car charging is to understand the language that’s used when talking about it.
kWh stands for kilowatt-hour and is a measurement of electricity. Knowing what a kWh is will help you understand how much energy you are using.
You’ll see kilowatt-hours used when looking at a car’s battery size. The bigger the battery in kWh, the more electricity you’ll be able to fit into it.
For example, a Kia EV6 with a 77.4kWh battery can store a maximum of 77.4 kilowatt-hours of electricity. More simply, a battery this size would be able to run a 1kW appliance like a kettle for 77.4 hours.
Another measurement you’ll come across is a kW. A kW, as you may have guessed, stands for kilowatt and is equal to 1,000 watts.
Kilowatts are often used to measure the power created by a motor or engine, which you’ll see in the description of an electric car derivative. A kW can also be used to describe how quickly a charging point can fill up a battery.
For example, the power outputs of chargers can be anything from 3.6kW up to 350kW. The higher the kW, the quicker the charging point can move electricity into your car. However, not all cars will have the compatibility to charge at those higher rates.
kW and kWh are the fundamental measurements for measuring electricity. For even more information on electric car terminology, visit our EV Dictionary!
You may have already come across confusing diagrams and images of charging connectors. Ultimately, CHAdeMO, CCS and Type 2 are the main ones you’ll need to know about.
This type of connector is mainly seen on cars from Japanese manufacturers like Nissan and Mitsubishi. If you’re looking to buy or lease a European model then you won’t need to worry about CHAdeMO connectors.
As pictured above, the CHAdeMO ‘plug’ is circular with 4 round pins. This connector will be available to use when charging at a DC rapid or ultra rapid charging station.
CCS stands for Combined Charging System and is the most common connector for EVs in Europe. This connector will be available to use when charging at a DC rapid or ultra rapid charging station.
As pictured above, the CCS connector consists of two DC pins that sit below a standard Type 2 connector ‘plug’ that we’ll look at below.
Type 2 is the most common connector for AC charging. You’ll need to bring your own Type 2 charging cable with you when you plug in at an AC charging point.
Just like CCS, Type 2 is becoming the standard across new electric vehicles.
As pictured above, a Type 2 connector is circular with 7 pins and a flat edge. You’re most likely to find Type 2 connectors on street posts or on your own home charger.
3 pin plug
A 3 pin plug charging cable will also most likely have a Type 2 connector attached. Charging with a 3 pin plug is not recommended except for emergencies. This is because they are extremely slow and can lack certain safety features.
There are three types of charging available: slow, fast and rapid.
Another term for charging that you’ll need to know is tethered, this means that you don’t need to bring a cable because the charging point has one attached. Some AC charging points are untethered, meaning they won't have a cable attached so you'll need to use your own.
Slow charging typically performs between 3kW – 6kW and will use AC power. Slow charging is generally associated with charging at home or via a 3-pin plug.
Charging times will vary depending on the vehicle but at a 3kW unit you can expect a full charge to take between 6-12 hours. The vast majority of slow charging points will be untethered and will use a Type 2 connector.
Fast charging typically performs between 7kW or 22kW and will usually operate on AC power. Fast chargers are very common and can be found at supermarkets, car parks and installed at your home.
Charging times will vary depending on the vehicle but with a 7kW unit you can expect a full recharge to take between 4-6 hours and with a 22kW one it’ll take around 1-2 hours.
Most fast charging points will be untethered, although some home and work units may have charging cables attached and will use a Type 2 connector.
Rapid charging is a broad term for the fastest type of charging. Rapid DC chargers use the two DC connectors (CCS and CHAdeMO) that we mentioned previously. There are also rapid AC chargers at 43kW that use Type 2 connectors. Ultra rapid DC chargers provide power upwards of 100kW. These are the fastest around, and they will only get faster.
Direct Current (DC) charges EVs at a faster rate because usually electric cars have to convert AC power into DC power for the battery. DC charging stations bypass this process so can re-energise the car quicker.
All rapid charging points are tethered and will usually be found at motorway service stations and along main routes.
Charging times vary depending on the vehicle but typically all EVs can be charged to 80% power in under an hour with rapid charging. Ultra rapid DC charging stations can power up the latest long range EV models in as little as 20 minutes.