One of the primary considerations with buying an EV is how and where to charge it. Unlike combustion-engined cars, hybrids and even fuel-cell vehicles, battery EVs have the convenience of being charged at home, as well as when you’re out and about. All of this means that it’s possible to leave home with a full charge every day, and also go on that epic road trip with your friends.
One issue with EV charging, however, is that there are various speeds, standards and charging types to consider, each with pros and cons. This is somewhat akin to how different countries have different wall plug designs, and in some cases such as America, different household voltages. Unfortunately, while some standards are more common in certain areas of the world, there is no uniform, mandated plug design or charging standard that is used globally.
This story will focus on some of the charging standards and other considerations that are most relevant for Australian buyers who wish to purchase an electric vehicle.
Types of charging: At home and public
Perhaps the best way to frame EV charging is whether it is something that you would like to do at home, or publicly.
When you are charging your EV at home, you will be using what is known as AC (alternating current) charging. AC charging is also available at some public locations, especially hotels, motels and campgrounds/caravan parks where there is a possibility of plugging in your EV and letting it charge overnight, as well as other places that might use networks such as Tesla’s Destination Charging network of AC chargers.
If you are charging your EV when out and about at a fast-charging station, this will use what is known as DC (direct current) charging. ChargeFox, Evie and Tesla’s network of Superchargers all use a DC charging system, for example.
Alternating current (AC) charging
AC charging systems typically connect to the standard household electricity grid, and are a slower option to charge your EV than DC alternatives. However, they offer a greater level of convenience and flexibility.
AC charging options include portable chargers, as well as dedicated home charging options that must be installed by a professional at your home, commonly known as a wallbox.
Portable AC chargers come in a variety of charging speeds and current-handling capacities. Cheaper, Level 1 entry-level models are able to typically provide around 2.2kW (10A or amperes) of power, equating to approximately 10km of range per hour. Meanwhile, the fastest Level 2 portable chargers require a three-phase AC connection, but can provide up to 22kW (32A) of power, equating to approximately 40km of range per hour. Other speeds that are commonly available include 3.6kW (15A) chargers.
When purchasing a portable EV charger, be sure to look for one with a box in the middle. This is known as a residual current device (RCD), and works as an important safety feature that will prevent short-circuits and reduce the chances of electrocution. Most portable chargers are also offered with an IP66 or IP67 water resistance rating, allowing owners to safely charge their vehicle even if it’s raining.
Dedicated, installed wall-boxes are generally capable of faster, more consistent charging speeds than their portable equivalents, and also offer enhanced functionality such as app or internet connectivity. These features may allow the user to schedule charging to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates, or remotely monitor the car’s charge level and notify the owner of any faults or issues with the charging system or connection. Single-phase (240V) options typically include models rated to 3.6kW (16A) or 7.2kW (32A), while three-phase (415V) offerings are rated to 11kW (16A) or a faster 22kW (32A).
Another factor to consider are the variety of charging standards and plug types available with AC charging. These differ by EV, to ensure you get a portable charger or wallbox that suits.
AC charging standards used in Australia include the Type 1 J1772 standard, used in models such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and older versions of the Nissan Leaf and Holden Volt.
More common is the Type 2 Mennekes plug design that is used my most new battery EVs sold in Australia today. This standard effectively supersedes the older J1772 design, with the primary difference being that Type 2 can also support the three-phase AC supply systems common in the EU, facilitating faster charging rates of up to 43 kW at 63A. A limit of 23 kW at 32A is far more common, however.
Direct current (DC) charging
DC charging is used exclusively at public fast-charging stations, such as Tesla Superchargers, and fast charging networks by other providers such as Chargefox. The primary advantage of DC charging is that it facilitates much faster charging speeds than its AC counterpart, with some chargers supporting a peak charging capacity of 350kW on supported EVs, and many offering a peak speed of at least 50kW.
Several EV manufacturers use DC charging to claim that their EVs can be charged from 20 to 80% in less than 30 mins. Hyundai, for example, claims that its latest Ioniq 6 can charge from 10-80% in just 18 minutes using a 350kW public DC fast charging station.
Like AC charging, DC chargers also come in different standards and plug designs. Most popular in Australia is the CCS (Combined Charging System) Combo 2 design. The Combo 2 design pairs a Type 2 Mennekes plug (as described above) with a two-pin socket for DC fast charging underneath. In America, the CCS Combo 1 design is also used, which instead pairs a J1772 Type 1 plug with the requisite two-pin DC charging plug.
Older Tesla Model S and X vehicles produced before May 1, 2019 and sold in Australia use a modified Type 2 connector that looks like a standard Mennekes plug, but can use two of the charging pins to directly facilitate DC fast charging on the Tesla Supercharger network.
Also available in Australia, especially on vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, is the CHAdeMO standard first introduced by the CHAdeMO Association in 2010, a consortium made up of Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Honda. Globally, this standard is especially popular in Japan.
One of the primary disadvantages of CHAdeMO is that unlike CCS, it cannot be combined easily with an AC charging solution to form a unified plug design. This means that vehicles equipped with CHAdeMO must have a discrete J1772 or Type 2 AC connector. Under the latest CHAdeMO 2.0 standard, compatible fast chargers can theoretically deliver a maximum power output of 400kW, however no such chargers currently exist in Australia.