So you’re considering an all-electric vehicle (EV)? Welcome, we’re glad to have you on the team!

What’s that you say? You don’t understand why some chargers look different than others? You’re thinking about sticking with your gas-guzzler because the new technology is just too confusing? This is stressing you out?

Calm down Francis. We’re going to explain the differences between the different chargers and why these differences are no big deal.

First and foremost, we’re going to have to apologize to our readers outside of North America.  This article will only focus on the different types of chargers used here. We may revisit the topic for other markets in the future if there is an interest.

Level-1 and Level-2 Charging

Yesterday, we wrote about how long it takes to charge a Nissan Leaf using various level chargers (i.e. level-1, level-2, and DC fast charging).  We won’t rehash the differences, but please feel free to refer to that article if there are any questions on the different levels.

In North America, every automaker that offers an EV line (except for Tesla who always has to be different for some reason), uses a “J-plug” connector for level-1 and level-2 charging. Tesla cars use a proprietary connector that can only be used at Tesla charging stations. For the sake of convenience, Tesla provides an adapter cable that allows their cars to use charging stations with a J-plug connector.

This means that any EV sold today in North America can be successfully charged at any level-1 or 2 charging station, which is great news!

DC Fast Charging

Things get a bit trickier when we consider DC fast charging. DC fast chargers are not (yet) available for home use, as the vast majority of residences are not equipped to handle the amount of electricity needed by these machines.

Non-Tesla DC fast chargers in North America use a Combined Charging System (CCS) that utilizes a J-plug in conjunction with two high-speed charging pins. In addition to the CSS, Nissan and Mitsubishi EVs can also utilize the CHAdeMo charging system, which is the standard in Japan.


As per usual, Tesla is the odd man out. Tesla vehicles use the same proprietary connector for all levels of charging, including DC fast charge. All Tesla connectors accept all the different kinds of voltage, so there is no need for adapters. Only Teslas may be charged at the company’s Supercharger Stations, which are located throughout North America.

Tesla has even developed an authentication process that requires the car to be properly identified before receiving power from one of their charging stations. They really don’t want anyone but Tesla drivers using their juice!

In a nutshell, EVs sold in North America that are not Teslas pretty much all utilize the same kind of plug no matter what level of charging they’re using. Tesla vehicles can use an adapter that allows them to charge at non-Tesla charging stations. Conversely, non-Tesla vehicles cannot be charged at Tesla’s Supercharger Stations under any circumstances.

What do our readers think about the variances in charging stations? Do you find it annoying that Tesla has their own proprietary plug? Please leave us a comment below.

Source | Image: Wikipedia