The electric car: connector types and charging modes

Published by on 01.09.2019 - 5 min

How can I determine the type of electric car connector and charging mode that best suit my vehicle, either at home or at a public charging point? Despite the technical terms specific to electric mobility, the matter is actually very simple. Just follow this guide!

Two main parameters need to be taken into account when choosing a charging point that suits your electric car. First, it is important to make sure that the electric terminal and the vehicle are able to communicate with each other, which is to say they are able to exchange energy from a technical point of view: this is what we call the charging mode. The next thing to do is to check that it is indeed possible to physically link the car and the terminal: compatibility depending here on the type of socket.

The different charging modes

The faster the charging, the more the electrical circuits require advanced control devices dedicated to monitoring and regulating the strength of the current. The presence, or lack thereof, of this intelligent hardware will determine the charging mode.

The faster the charging, the more the electrical circuits require advanced control devices dedicated to monitoring and regulating the strength of the current.

Whatever type of electric car connector is available at the terminal, the speed of charging and compatibility with the different modes is conditioned by the maximum power that the car’s onboard electronics are able to absorb. The Chameleon Charger developed by Renault for its ZOEs, for example, can handle charging between 1.8 kW and 43 kW.

Mode 1

« Mode 1 » refers to a traditional power socket with a grounding system. All electric cars can be connected to a domestic socket, although the absence of a dedicated circuit limits the power provided. Charging is therefore very slow, which limits mode 1 to auxiliary use.

Mode 2

To increase the current amperage (and thereby the amount of power provided), it is necessary to have an electronic control unit that regulates the load. It monitors the charging parameters and stops the transfer as soon as an abnormal occurrence is detected.
We call this « mode 2 » when the control device is integrated into the charging cable, just like what Renault offers with its
Flexi Charger.

Mode 3

« Mode 3 » is when a control device is directly integrated into the electrical supply. Recommended for charging at home or in other private spaces, it involves the installation of a wallbox, an electronic unit that controls all aspects of charging. Often equipped with programming functions, it is fed by a dedicated electrical circuit, capable of delivering more than twice the power of a standard domestic socket, thus explaining why the price of such a charging point includes installation fees. A wallbox that puts out 7.4 kW will recharge a ZOE in about eight hours.

Mode 4

« Mode 4 » covers the fast charging infrastructure found in certain public places, car parks or motorway service stations.
They generally deliver a high-powered direct current, allowing a ZOE to recover the equivalent of a 120 km range in just thirty minutes. Among the
various charging points that are publicly accessible, you may encounter « mode 3 » (normal charging) and
« mode 4 » (fast charging) setups, with the amount of power offered usually affecting the
charging price.

The types of electric car connectors

All electric cars have a specialised socket integrated into the car body, but they also often come with cables or adaptors that allow them to be connected to the most common charging modes.

Type 1 connector

Nicknamed Yazaki (after the Japanese parts manufacturer that supplies it), the « type 1 » electric car connector enjoys fairly wide use in Asia. However, it has an 8 kW limit power capacity, making it infeasible for fast charging use and leading to the arrival of more versatile connectors.

Type 2 connector

Noticeably more common, the « type 2 » electric car connector has become the European Union standard. It delivers between 3 and 43 kW depending on the power source (single-phase or three-phase) and meets the requirements of all the common charging situations, notably with a wallbox in domestic use.

Type 3 connector

Developed in Europe, the « type 3 » electric car connector can still be found on some charging points along public roads, but is gradually being supplanted by « type 2 » connectors. If necessary, there are adapters available that allow a car equipped with a « type 2 » connector to be plugged in at a charging point with a « type 3 ».

Type 4 connector or CHAdeMO

The « type 4 » electric car connector, or CHAdeMO charger, is used for « mode 4 » fast charging. It allows for a high-powered direct current, but cannot be used at a charging point that provides an alternating current, meaning cars that use it must also come equipped with a second connector. In Europe, this situation inspired the creation of a connector that combines the type 2 with contacts dedicated to direct current charging. This is the « combo type » connector, or « CCS (Combined Charging System) type 2 » connector.

Copyrights: Christian FOURNIER,

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