Fast charging or rapid charging? Your guide to electric car charger types
Our guide to different electric car charger types and speeds in the UK
Drivers have been refuelling their cars using petrol and diesel pumps for decades, but with the electric vehicle revolution in full swing, we’ll have to get used to charging our cars instead of filling them up. The UK’s charging networks are quickly expanding and there are multiple types of chargers to get your head around, offering different speeds and plug types.
Car chargers come in a variety of speeds: slow, fast and rapid. Things get a little more complicated when you take into account the different plug types and charging formats, so we’re here to help with our guide to electric car charger types.
Many electric vehicles are available with a charging cable that has a three-pin plug on the end, so that your car can be plugged into a normal domestic socket in your house or garage. Manufacturers tend not to recommend this as a way to charge your car because it’s so slow; it can take around 15 to 17 hours to charge the average electric car, depending on the size of the battery – possibly more if you have a longer-range electric vehicle
A fast charger generally offers charging speeds of between 7kW and 22kW, making it possible to fully charge most cars overnight, in around 10 hours or less.
Batteries in electric cars require DC (direct current) electricity to charge. Both slow chargers and fast chargers typically draw AC (alternating current) from their source, so electric cars have to first switch this into DC with a converter that’s built into the car’s charging system.
Rapid chargers are able to charge electric cars much faster and come in two main types. Rapid AC chargers speed up the process simply by using more power, at around 43kW. These types of chargers are commonly found at shopping centres and in town centres, where owners typically spend a few hours. It’s worth noting, however, that only a handful of EVs are capable of accepting such speeds via AC.
The other way to achieve higher charging speeds is to deliver DC straight from the charger. These are often called ultra-rapid chargers, operating at speeds from 50kW – and at up to 350kW at cutting-edge locations, slashing charge times to around 30 minutes, depending on the car.
The technology is regularly improving, with some models like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 capable of charging at speeds up to 220kW, giving owners the ability to charge from 10-80% in as little as 18 minutes. Currently the fastest-charging car on sale is the Porsche Taycan, capable of speeds up to 270kW. CCS connectors are used to charge EVs at rapid and ultra-rapid speeds.
Rapid and ultra-rapid chargers are usually located near motorways or main roads, where EV motorists need the fastest possible charge to continue on their journey.
Can any car use a fast or rapid charger?
While chargers are getting more powerful, the exact charging speed you’ll get will come down to the particular electric car you own. The primary factor is a car’s charging capacity and the second is the type of connector it uses. Most AC and DC fast and rapid chargers use the ‘Type 2’ connector (more on connector types below) and every electric car will have an upper limit for its charging speed in order to protect its battery.
The standard Renault ZOE, for example, has a maximum charging capacity of 22kW (AC); plug it into a charger more powerful than this and charging will be automatically restricted to 22kW. It’s worth noting that you can add CCS rapid charging as an option on the ZOE, for speeds of up to 50kW.
Fastest charging electric cars
Many electric cars are now compatible with ultra-rapid charging, but some are faster than others. The fastest charging electric cars include premium models such as the Porsche Taycan, Mercedes EQS and Audi e-tron GT. The Mercedes EQS, for example, can be charged from 10-80% in around half an hour if you can find a charger capable of 200kW charging speeds. This also gives an impressive range of around 453 miles in the EQS 450+ model.
The Hyundai Ioniq 5 and its sister car the Kia EV6, however, are some of the first mainstream electric cars to offer similar levels of fast-charging tech. If you can find a compatible ultra-rapid charger, both the Ioniq 5 and EV6 can be charged from 10-80% in just 18 minutes - higher spec models of the Ioniq 5 charge at a speed of 220kW, but EV6 models are capable of 233kW charging speeds. You’ll get a range of up to 300 miles in the rear wheel drive version of the Ioniq with a large battery, and up to 328 miles in the Kia EV6.
Despite slower charging speeds, electric cars such as the Fiat 500 with smaller batteries can be charged fairly quickly (around 30 to 35 minutes), but expect modest range figures of 115 miles and 199 miles in the 24kWh battery and 42kWh battery models respectively.
Charging connector types
Not all cars and charging stations are made equal. There are a few different connector types detailed below. Some are more common than others and some, typically found in older models, are now being phased out.
Many EVs will arrive with a cable compatible with a domestic three-pin plug socket. While this is the slowest form of charging, and isn't recommended for daily usage, a three-pin charger can be useful if you arrive somewhere with a low battery, but with no dedicated charger in sight.
Type 1 chargers have a maximum output of 7.4kW and are mostly found on cars from Asia. For example, the first generation Nissan LEAF used the Type 1 connector, while the second generation model uses Type 2. Manufacturers are generally switching to the Type 2 connectors because of their higher charging speeds and better connectivity.
In 2014, the European Commission made it compulsory for charging stations across the continent to offer compatibility with the Type 2 charger, making it the most common connector. These chargers are capable of speeds between 7kW to 43kW, depending on the vehicle, and most EVs now come with this port.
The CCS port (Combined Charging System) is a rapid and ultra-rapid DC charging connector favoured by European car manufacturers. At the time of writing, this connector type is capable of charging speeds up to 350kW and is only available at public charging stations. You don't need to buy a CCS charger cable, as these are supplied attached to ultra-rapid public chargers – you simply drive up, pay or enter your subscription details, and plug in.
Your car must have a CCS socket in order to use one of these chargers. It has nine pins in two sections; with the upper seven-pin section also compatible with a Type 2 cable for slower charging using a home wallbox or AC charger. The larger, lower pins enable the DC connection for faster charging speeds.
The CHAdeMO is the Japanese counterpart to the CCS, established by manufacturers including Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi. It’s used for rapid charging and cars require a specific socket for use with CHAdeMO public chargers. These chargers are capable of speeds up to 50kW; all charging stations with CCS charging also have CHAdeMO compatibility.
This type was featured on older, low-selling electric vehicles. You can find this type at some charging stations but it’s very uncommon.
Want to know more about the EV charging network? Read our in-depth guide to electric car charging stations
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