Electrical car charging cables

There is a growing interest and investment in electric vehicles infrastructure. To change those electric vehicles here are many different options how this can be done – with different benefits and disadvantages. The charging time depends on the battery capacity and the charging power. The charging power depends on the power available from the power source, the capabilities of your car and how your car is connected to the power source. There are also many different connectors in use (in both power outlets and in the car end). One of the disadvantages are that there are many options that can confuse users.

How does an Electric Car work ? | Tesla Model S

The simplest options that many people choose is to charge their electric vehicles from a domestic socket typically plug your car in overnight. Some electric vehicles have converters on board that can plug directly into a standard electrical outlet or they can be plugged to standard outlet with a special cable that has some active electronics in it (setting allowed load current and provide protection functions). Charging an electric vehicle is pretty easy if your car supports that option – just plug it in and wait.

Many people choose to charge their electric vehicles from a domestic socket typically plug your car in overnight (it can take all night to charge your car battery from empty to full). As a short-term or occasional solution, charging from the mains is fine. In longer term use, the problems are that that charging is slow that in some cases the old domestic outlets might not be able to properly handle the long term high current load the electrical car charging causes.

Another option is that you can charge your car at a public charging station or at home via a domestic socket or a specially installed charging point. You can charge your car much faster if you install a specially-designed charging point. Home chargers (typically 16-amps or 32-amps) can charge an electric vehicle from flat to full in 3.5 hours. Some are even quicker. The price of chargers depends on their power and efficiency. Typically you will use a charging station that provides electrical conversion, monitoring, or safety functionality.

Electric Car Charging, How long does it REALLY take?

Charging Your EV at Home

There is also a wide variety of electrical vehicle charging stations. An electric vehicle charging station is an element in an infrastructure that supplies electric energy for the recharging of plug-in electric vehicles—including electric cars, neighborhood electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Charging station is usually accessible to multiple electric vehicles and has additional current or connection sensing mechanisms to disconnect the power when the EV is not charging.

Charging stations fall into four basic categories:
1. Residential charging stations: An EV owner plugs into a standard receptacle when he or she returns home, and the car recharges overnight.
2. Charging while parked (including public charging stations) – a private or commercial venture for a fee or free, sometimes offered in partnership with the owners of the parking lot. This charging may be slow or high speed.
3. Fast charging at public charging stations >40 kW, capable of delivering over 60-mile (97 km) of range in 10–30 minutes.
4. Battery swaps or charges in under 15 minutes.

The charging time depends on the battery capacity and the charging power. The charging power depends on the voltage handling of the batteries and charger electronics in the car. The U.S.-based SAE International defines Level 1 (household 120V AC) as the slowest, Level 2 (upgraded household 240 VAC) in the middle and Level 3 (super charging, 480V DC or higher) as the fastest.

In Europe where 230V AC is used, the Level 2 type of charging is most commonly used. For normal charging (up to 7.4 kW), car manufacturers have typically built a battery charger into the car. A charging cable is used to connect it to the electrical network to supply 230 volt AC current. The charging cable can have active electronics in it to provide car the information how much current it can draw from outlet and some protective electronics (ground fault protector, over current protector, connector over-heating protection etc.). The Type 2 connector is suitable for slow, fast and rapid charging.

For quicker charging (22 kW, even 43 kW and more), manufacturers have chosen two solutions:
1. Use the vehicle’s built-in charger, designed to charge from 3 to 43 kW at 230 V single-phase or 400 V three-phase.
2. Use an external charger, which converts AC current into DC current and charges the vehicle at 50 kW (e.g. Nissan Leaf) or more (e.g. 120-135 kW Tesla Model S).

Different charging modes:

Mode 1: Domestic socket and extension cord. The vehicle is connected to the power grid through standard socket-outlets present in residences, which depending on the country are usually rated at around 10 A. You are merely connecting a car to the mains using a wire, with no method of controlling current/voltage drawn or utilizing any extra safety features. The the electrical installation must comply with the safety regulations and must have an earthing system, a circuit breaker to protect against overload and an earth leakage protection. This is nowadays very rarely used option.

Mode 2: Domestic socket and cable with a protection device. Mode 2 cables build upon Mode 1 to provide more safety and control. The vehicle is typically still connected to the main power grid via normal household socket-outlets. Charging can be done via a single-phase or three-phase network. A protection device is built into the cable. They feature some inline circuitry to help communicate with the car and dictate how much current is being pumped into the battery pack – they try to set charging current to match the capabilities of the car and the electrical outlet type used for charging. Typical protective functionality provided are ground fault protection, current sensors which monitor the power consumed (maintain the connection only if the demand is within a predetermined range) and additional physical “sensor wires” which provide a feedback signal (SAE J1772 and IEC 62196 schemes).

Mode 3: Specific socket on a dedicated circuit. The vehicle is connected directly to the electrical network via specific socket and plug and a dedicated circuit. A control and protection function is also installed permanently in the installation. Mode 3 is when things start to get clever, allowing the car and charging point to talk to one another. What this means is that electric cars can instruct the charging point to turn off the power when the battery is fully charged and also allow the car to evaluate a charging point’s capacity – changing the speed with which the car will be charged. Typically, these are wall-box type units.

Mode 4: Direct current (DC) connection for fast recharging. The electric vehicle is connected to the main power grid through an external charger. Control and protection functions and the vehicle charging cable are installed permanently in the installation.

Electric Vehicle Charging – Part 1/2

Electric Vehicle Charging – Part 2/2

Cables and connectors for electronics vehicle charging can be confusing. There are many connector and cable types. Electric car charging cables aren’t as simple as you may expect. Not only are there multiple types of plugs and connectors but there are different modes of operation, too. Modes of operation are a little different to plug/connector design, as they affect what these are capable of. There is no set world-wide standard for all car makers to follow.

Charging cable and plug types article gives an overview of all relevant charging cable and plug types for electric mobility. Using the right combination of cables for your EV is needed to charge it properly and quickly.

Put simply, an electric car charging cable is made up of three parts: a connector which plugs into your car, a length of wire and another plug which connects into a power source. That’s applies to most of the charging cable except type 2. Those wire only cables do without any electronics or rely on larger electronics at both ends of the cable, such as a wall-box.

There are two types of charging cables for electric cars: The mode 2 charging cable and the mode 3 charging cable. The mode 2 charging cable that fits into any standard domestic socket. The mode 3 charging cable is the connection cable between the electric car and the charging station.

The mode 2 charging cable is on that is the one that usually delivered with the vehicle ex works and fits into any standard domestic socket.
Mode 2 charging uses a cable that has circuitry in between both ends of the cable. Communication between the charging connection and the electric car takes place via a box which, which acts as intermediary between the vehicle and the connection plug (ICCB, in-cable control box). In case of charging from normal mains plug, the box on the type 2 cable tells the car how much current it can take from the mains outlet and tries to disconnect mains power to car if something seems to be going wrong.

Having many types of different connectors in electrical vehicles can be a problem for users. The EU realiszed this and back in 2014 brought into effect legislation that stated all new plug-in vehicles and charging points must include a ‘Type 2′ charging connector. The IEC 62196 Type 2 connector (commonly referred to as mennekes) is used for charging electric cars within Europe. The connector is circular in shape, with a flattened top edge and originally specified for charging battery electric vehicles at 3–50 kilowatts. Electric power is provided as single-phase or three-phase alternating current (AC), or direct current (DC).

The connector contains seven contact places: two small and five larger. Two small contacts are used for communications. Communication takes place over the signalling pins between the charger, cable, and vehicle to ensure that the highest common denominator of voltage and current is selected. The large pins are used for power and ground connections somewhat differently depending on the charging mode.

Although an EU-wide agreement regarding a universal plug system exists, there are still some points to note if you are thinking of purchasing an electric car. For example, you will need the right charging cable if you want to charge your e-vehicle at home or at public charging points.

Types of Electric Car Charging Cables

Type 2 (Mode 3) cable explained

Charging Adapters

You might be interested to see what is inside those charging stations and charging cables. Here are videos to see what is inside different electrical car charging systems.

Inside an electric vehicle charger interface.

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