Guide to charging electric cars

Question & answers

To charge your car at charging stations on public property, you will need:

  • A charging cable
  • A charging point (public use charging station)
  • A method of payment (the charge may be made using a Card or an App, depending on the charging service provider you choose).  

To charge your car at a home charging station, you will need: 

  • A charging cable
  • A charging point (home charging station) 

A card to commence charging (this depends on the type of station purchased or rented).

No, you don’t have to let the battery run out before recharging it fully. Modern lithium ion batteries used in the vehicles actually benefit more from small partial charges.  

Most electric cars will allow you to do small and partial charges if your car’s battery is not completely flat. Charging times in these instances can be very fast indeed.

If that particular functionality is available, yes, you can monitor the charge status using the app provided by the operator you have chosen to charge with.

Yes, some operators offer an app-based booking service to allow customers to be sure that the charging station will be available when they get there. Alternatively, you can just drop by the charging station to check it is available and then begin charging your car.   Many stations can be used by more than one car at the same time, in actual fact.

Charging services on public property are offered by various different operators (also known as Mobility Service Providers). Customers can view the network of charging stations provided on the operators’ own website or app. They can usually check the columns’ status (busy, booked, available or under maintenance).

Charging time depends on the power you are charging at (power in  kW of the socket available at the charging stations), the maximum power capability of the car’s own battery charger and the type of charging cable you use in addition, of course, to the in-car battery capacity and charge status.  The following are currently available on the market:

  • charging stations for the residential market (typically ranging from 3kW to 7kW)
  • charging stations for the business sector (with power in excess of 7kW, typically 22kW)
  • charging stations for public use with power in excess of 22kW
    • Quick stations offer up to 22kW
    • Fast stations (installed on main roads and motorways)  offer up to 43/50kW
    • UltraFast stations offer charges of up to 350kW

A dedicated charging station is safer and offers the customer the following extra functionalities not provided by a simple wall socket: 

  • Tracking consumption and cost of charges made
  • Adjusting the power of the charge (e.g. reducing the power to guarantee you can use other domestic appliances at the same time)
  • Remotely planning charges on the basis of hourly electricity rate or other requirements, regulatory framework permitting
  • Access to real time information on charging status

Optimisation of charging on the basis of your home photovoltaic system’s output

If you’re connecting to your home system, you won’t need a new meter. 

However, if your contracted power is limited (for example, to 3 kW), you can use smart charging stations which use smart charging technology to avoid tripping the circuit breaker as these adjust the charging profile to suit the consumption of other appliances to ensure that the  overall limit is not exceeded. Alternatively, you can recharge the car overnight when other high-energy electric appliances are not being used. If you have different requirements, then it may be necessary to request an increase in meter power. 

The cable that comes with your EV will have a socket that will allow it to be connected to the car inlet or socket and a plug of various kinds which can be inserted into the socket at the charging station.  

For A/C charging, there are cables with the following  plug types for connecting to charging station sockets :

Mode 1 and Mode 2 –“Shuko” plug

Mode3 - Type 2 and Type 3 plug

The cable with a Type 2 or “Mennekes” plug or connector is now the most widespread in Europe with the exception of France. It charges the car using single or three-phase alternating current (A/C) up to a power of 22kW on the charging infrastructure socket and up to 43kW through the connector on a cable tethered to the charging infrastructure.

Cables with a Type 3A or “Scame” plug or connector are now only used for light vehicles such as scooters or quadricycles (four-wheeled micro cars) and offer single-phase charging with a maximum power of  3.7kW.

In the United States and Japan, A/C charging is done using so-called tethered cables which are permanently fixed to the charging station. These cables have a connector or plug that the customer plugs into their car’s inlet socket. These are Type 1 or   “Yazaki” connectors which charge the car using single-phase alternating current to a maximum charging power of 7.4 kW.

For direct current charging, the cables are tethered to the charging station and the connectors are as follows: 

Mode 4 – CHAdeMO connector

Mode 4 - CCS COMBO1 and CCS COMBO2 connectors

Cables with a CHAdeMO connector are standard for fast-charging using direct current and continue to the most popular worldwide. They are used, for example, on  Nissan, Mitsubishi, Peugeot and Citroen vehicles. This type of cable is currently available at fast charging stations internationally at a maximum power of 50kW.

 CCS COMBO2 type cables have been adopted by some European car manufacturers, including  BMW and Volkswagen, while CCS COMBO1 type cables have been adopted predominantly by Japanese and US manufacturers.  CCS COMBO 2 cables allow fast charging using direct current as well as slow charging using alternating current, and at present charge in direct current on internationally available fast charging networks to a maximum power of 50kW. They charge in alternating current at the same power levels described previously for the Type 2 standard.  Car manufacturers decide which power limits to apply.

There is also a standalone standard used only by Tesla: a single Type 2 connector for both alternating and direct current. If direct current is used, it charges only on Tesla Superchargers using the latter’s proprietary protocol.

There are different kinds of EV charging cable. Each car model comes with its own cable with a plug at one end that connects to the socket in charging stations and a connector at the other that connects to the car’s own inlet (or socket).  

Below is an overview of the international standards for the type of charging network connections. 

Charging EVs at home is typically done using alternating current (A/C) in Mode 1, Mode 2, Mode 3, compatible with national regulatory restrictions. All the cables provided with the car can be used. EVs charging in public places can use either alternating current (in Italy Mode 2 and Mode 3) or direct current (Mode 4).

The first step is to check that the car inlet standard and that of the charging station are compatible. When a car is sold, all manufacturers provide one or two cables to be used with indication of the corresponding sockets at the charging stations.

When you buy or rent an electric car you will be given one or two cables. However, if customers wish to buy further cables compatible with other types of sockets (at charging stations), they can do so online or at their dealership. Cable costs vary depending on power, ranging in price from €200 to €1,000.

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