Are EV Plug Standardization Mandates Next on the Horizon?
Mass electrification is fully underway in the United States, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that EVs are the fastest growing auto segment in 2021. Electric vehicles have seen a 254.9 percent growth year-over-year as more automakers than ever are introducing more electric models into their line-ups.
With such a major shift away from internal combustion engine vehicles, consumers and fleet managers must rethink how they are powering their vehicles. Fueling will no longer be just a gas station away, with a thoughtless five-minute refill until you’re back on the road.
Drivers switching from ICE vehicles to EVs have new considerations to keep in mind including vehicle range, charging strategy for fleets, and required infrastructure or equipment. Among these considerations is also the various different EV plugs out on the market, and which work for your vehicle.
EV plug variations
There are currently four types of EV charging plugs available in North America, which each plug varying in the vehicles with which they are compatible and the amount of power they provide.
Educating drivers on these different plug types is essential, as they are not a one-fits-all solution.
Level 1 and 2
Level 1 and 2 chargers, also known as J1772, are the standard plugs for all electric vehicles regardless of make or model. This is the type of charging typically done at private residences or workplaces. The plugs are compatible with all EVs on the market, with the exception of Teslas who require an additional adapter.
Level 1 plugs charge at a level of up to 7.4 kW, adding around 3 to 5 miles per hour, and can connect electric cars directly to standard 120V outlets found in homes. Level 2 plugs charge up to 22 kW, up to 80 miles per hour, and require a bit more set up, including installation by an electrician if your home doesn’t have a 240V outlet.
The slower charge level of these plugs makes them optimal for at-home, overnight charging, especially because no major infrastructure installation is needed for use. It is also usually cheaper to charge vehicles at home in comparison to public charging stations.
Level 3 charging is also known as DC fast charging as it is the fastest way to charge EVs. The plugs used are called Combined Charging Standard or CCS combo plugs and feature two more power contacts than Level 1 and 2. These plugs charge up to 150 kW, or 525 miles per hour, making them ideal for use on the road, as they can get vehicles to 80 percent charge in a rapid 30 minutes.
These fast-charging plugs are compatible with nearly all EVs, except for plug-in hybrids and Tesla models.
As these CCS combo plugs require such high-power output, they cannot be installed at private residences and are only available at public charging stations.
Tesla vehicles come with their own specialized charging plug with the capability of all three charging levels mentioned before. Tesla owners can purchase additional adapters for the standard Tesla charger which upgrades the plug’s voltage capability and charging speed.
The included Tesla plug works with common 120V household outlets, charging at up to 15 kW or 3 miles per hour. The seven available adapters for Tesla plugs serve to upgrade to Level 2 and 3 charging ability, at up to 50 kW or 30 miles of range per hour.
The fourth available EV plug is the CHAdeMO. The plug is unique, as it is only compatible with two EVs on the market, so its popularity is inevitably waning. Additionally, it doesn’t charge as fast as other DC connector plugs, making it a less favored option.
The CHAdeMO plug supports the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, so for anyone that doesn’t have one of these two vehicles, the plug serves no purpose. The plug charges up to 100 kW, or 150 miles per hour, and is still available at stations across the nation. However, it will ultimately go out of use as CCS and Tesla plugs continue to lead within the market.
What is the benefit in standardization?
Before diving into the question of whether standardization will be necessary going forward, it is crucial to remember that the aforementioned plug types are only the ones available to the North American market. Japan, China, the EU and all other markets have entirely different EV plugs available, apart from a few that are compatible across the board.
As we have seen with the decrease in popularity of the CHAdeMO charger, universal compatibility is favored when it comes to plugs. Here are some the benefits that would come of standardization:
Streamlining vehicle charging across models
Standardizing EV plugs will ease many consumers concerns like “So which plug should I use for my specific vehicle?” and “Do I need to purchase an adapter?” Much like how Tesla has done, EV drivers could use the same one plug for various levels of charging, albeit with an adapter.
The universality of standard plugs would facilitate charging for multi-car homes and workplaces. It would increase the availability of compatible charging points for EV drivers on the road.
Ease of selling to different markets
Another major reason for pushing plug standardization is the ability to export vehicles across markets. While it is understandable for a country to protect their own automakers by impeding foreign companies from selling there, it does not help with electrification overall.
Companies, like Tesla, who sell to markets with different plug standards must build their cars for different plug compatibilities depending on where they will be sold. For example, though Tesla has their own proprietary plugs in the North American market, they are forced to comply with the European standard plug known as the Type 2 connector.
Keeping costs down
Though carmakers have their own reasons for wanting to use their own plug formats, the companies building charging networks would benefit greatly from just one or two becoming the standard. United Bank of Switzerland estimated that $360 billion will be spent in the next eight years on building EV charging infrastructure around the world.
As electrification depends largely on availability of these stations, limiting the amount of plugs available will keep costs down and allow for more stations to be built.
The road to a standard plug
As with any product in a marketplace, consumers will ultimately choose the cheapest, fastest and most compact option available – think smartphones, computers and audio players. It is possible that going forward, automakers will take one of the current plugs available and optimize it, or engineers could take the best components of each and create an even better solution.
As of now, seven major car manufacturers are coming together to establish a standard charging solution for consumers. Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Porsche and Volkswagen are the automakers working together to simplify charging across the board.
Still, government mandates may be necessary to ensure that charging infrastructure can support the quickly increasing demand for EVs.
If you’re interested to learn more about electrification and helping fleets to get more value from their telematics data, schedule a demo with us.