Photo: picture alliance / dpa
29.05.2020 | 7 minutes

The ABCs of plugs: The right type of plug for your electric car

There are a few things to consider when buying an electric car, including the type of plug. The choice of plug is important if you want to be able to charge wherever you happen to be. Our overview will help you choose which plug you need.

There is not much involved in charging an electric car. All you’ll need is a wallbox for home or at your company and a charging cable with a suitable plug for those times when you’re on the go. But which plug fits? The type of plug depends on the car manufacturer. The type 2 plug and the type 2 socket have become the standard for manufacturers of electric cars and charging stations in Europe – and it is no different in Germany.

You will find at least one type 2 socket at nearly every public charging station in accordance with Section 3 of the German Charging Station Regulation. This also applies to charging stations operated by Vattenfall InCharge. The following overview shows what characterizes a type 2 plug and what the other plug types are.

Type 1 plugs

Steckertypen Elektroauto Typ-1-Stecker.

The type 1 plug for charging electric vehicles is widely used in North America and Asia. You can find this plug in car brands such as Hyundai and Ford. Manufacturers deliver a type 2 plug for the charging cable for their European customers by default since it is rather rare to find a type 1 plug in Europe. Designed for single-phase three-wire electric power, the type 1 plug has a maximum charging capacity of 7.4 kW (kilowatts). This is disadvantageous in Germany because the three-phase power grid allows higher charging capacities ranging from 11 kW to 43 kW.

Type 2 plugs

Steckertypen Elektroauto Typ-2-Stecker.

The standard in Europe is the three-phase plug type. It is also called the “Mennekes plug” after the German company Mennekes Elektrotechnik GmbH & Co. KG that developed it. Car brands such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz, VW, and Tesla rely on this type of plug because it offers higher performance than the type 1 charging plug. Typically it is possible to attain charging capacities of up to 22 kW at home or company charging stations. On the other hand, public charging stations enable users to access a output of up to 43 kW, which is also considered rapid charging.

Type 3A/C plugs

Steckertypen Elektroauto Typ-3-Stecker A und C

The type 3A/C plug was developed at the same time as the type 2 plug. Its special feature is an integrated protective flap that prevents direct contact with live parts via a shutter. However, since the type 2 plugs are now also voltage-free and feature a shutter add-on as a backup, they have become the standard for electric vehicles in Europe. The older type 3A plug only allows single-phase charging, whereas the type 3C plug also allows three-phase charging and up to 43 kW charging current.

CCS plugs

Steckertypen Elektroauto CCS-Stecker.

The CCS plug (Combined Charging System) is an extension of the type 2 plug. Two additional contacts enable users to charge over AC and DC power grids (rapid charging), in essence transforming the CCS plug into an all-purpose charger. Theoretically, this plug type supports a charging capacity of up to 350 kW. However in actual use, the value is 50 kW, which is quite sufficient. The great advantage of CCS plugs: The sockets can also accommodate a type 2 plug.

CHAdeMO plugs

Steckertypen Elektroauto CHAdeMO-Stecker.

This rapid charging system was developed in Japan and enables charging of up to 150 kW. However, similar to the CCS plug, most public charging stations can only provide an output of 50 kW. Vehicles made by Citroën, Honda, Kia, and Mitsubishi are compatible with this type of plug. The expectation in the electromobility industry is that the CSS plug will one day replace the CHAdeMO plug.

Tesla Supercharger

Steckertypen Elektroauto Tesla Supercharger.

Tesla has developed its own charging plug, which is an adaptation of the type 2 plug. The Supercharger allows the Model S to be charged up to 80 percent within 30 minutes at a charging capacity of up to 120 kW. Currently it is not possible to charge other car makes on Tesla Superchargers.

SchuKo plugs

Steckertypen Elektroauto Schuko-Stecker.

“Schuko” is the German abbreviation for Schutz-Kontakt, or “protective contact”. The plug is commonly used with standard household outlets. But what many do not know: In the private sector, the Schuko plug should only be used for emergency charging. It enables a maximum charging capacity of 3.7 kW, which means it takes several hours for one charge. Yet, to avoid plug overheating or electrical fires, this plug should only be used to continuously draw a maximum of 2.3 kW. For this reason, you should use a wallbox for continuous loads.

CEE plugs

Steckertypen Elektroauto CEE-Stecker blau und rot.

The CEE plug is also called the “camper’s plug” in Germany because these plugs were used for motorhomes and recreational vehicles to hook up to the power grid at camping sites long before the advent of electromobility. The advantage over the standard SchuKo plug is the possibility of a continuous load of 3.7 kW. The plug is available in two versions:

  • Blue CCE plug: single-phase, with a charging capacity of up to 3.7 kW
  • Red CCE plug: three-phase, also known as high-current socket, with a charging capacity of 11 kW or 22 kW

What does the future hold?

Large car manufacturers such as BMW, Ford, Tesla, and Porsche are working intensively on the establishment and expansion of the rapid charging network in Germany. They only use CCS plugs for the charging stations. It is likely that the CCS plug will prevail over the type 2 plug when it comes to rapid charging stations, at least on the European market.

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