CHARGING BASICS 102: Electric Vehicle Charging Levels, Modes and Types Explained | North America Vs. Europe Charging cables and plug types


Ever confused with different modes, levels, and plug types of electric vehicles charging? You're not alone, these terminologies are often confusing (even those who work in the E-Mobility industry!).

Worry Not!. This post may help you to understand the definitions and differences of all these EV charging terminologies, while making a comparison between North American and European standards.

To start at a very high-level: , what you have to remember is:

  Charging "levels" are used to categorize the rated power, voltage and current of the charging system. There are 3 different EV charging levels, defined by SAE J1772. 

  Charging "modes" are used to categorize the mode of power delivery, protection installation and communication/control of charging system. There are 4 different EV charging modes, defined by the international standard IEC 61851-1.

  Charger "types are used to categorize the different socket-outlets used to deliver power in the charging system. There are many, but majorly 3 different connector types defined by the international IEC 62196-2.

In the below sections, we can deep dive into definitions and differences of each of these EV charging levels, modes and types of connectors.

Understanding different “charging levels”:

The Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) defines the general physical, electrical, communication and performance requirements for the EV charging systems used in North America, as part of standard SAE J1772. Below are the different charging levels that are practiced in North American market.


Based on the rated power, voltage and current, the charging levels in North America are classified into three categories:

    Level 1: refers to the charging from the regular household 120V outlets with a maximum current of 12 or 15 A, which delivers a maximum power of 1.44KW or 1.92KW. Here the active charging element is inside the car (EV’s on-board charger).

   Level 2: can be from the 240V outlet or from a dedicated EV charge pint (EVSE) ; AC voltage at 240 V with a maximum current of 80 A and a maximum power of 19.2KW. In level-2 also uses the EV’s on-board charger.

    Level 3: Here, the charger is off-board (meaning the EV’s on-board charger is by-passed and the charging station provides DC voltage directly to the battery via a DC connector, with a maximum power of 240 kW.

Understanding different “charging modes”

The IEC 61851-1 Committee on “Electric vehicle conductive charging system” has then defined 4 Modes of charging. In Europe, these modes are the ones widely used across different E-Mobility technical documents, reports and marketing brochures.


    Mode 1 (Schuko mode) refers to the charging household outlet with a simple extender cable without any safety devices in between. Though the household outlet is protected by a fuse, it’s response is very slow that makes Mode 1 charging quite un-safe. It is also forbidden in many parts of world (yet it is in use in some parts of the Europe). We strongly discourage the use of Schuko charging.

   Mode 2 also refers to the charging from the household outlet; but with a control and protection device inserted in the cable (called as IC-CPD = In-Cable Control and Protection Device). This mode of charging is much safer than the Schuko, however the charging capacity will be limited to the max rating of the outlet (which is typically 10A @ 230V = 2.3KW maximum).

   Mode 3 refers to the dedicated charge point (EVSE) with proper control and protection. This is the widely used mode of charging across the world and in Europe, it can range from 3.8KW to 22KW AC charging.

  Mode 4 refers to DC charging. EV’s on-board charger is by-passed and the charging station provides DC voltage directly to the battery via a DC connectors.

💡Wireless Charging: There are many research projects and proof-of-concepts (PoC) of wireless mode of charging; but it is still not commercially available in widespread.

Understanding different charging connector “types”

Both North America and Europe (and large part of the world) uses the terminology “type” for categorizing the different connectors involved in the AC charging systems. The international standard IEC 62196-2 provides the guidelines for each of the AC sockets and plugs.; and IEC 62196-3 provide guidelines for DC connectors.


AC connectors – as defined by IEC 62196-2:

    Type 1 - single phase vehicle coupler - reflecting the SAE J1772/2009 automotive plug specifications; also referred as "Yazaki" plugs/sockets

    Type 2 - single and three phase vehicle coupler - reflecting the VDE-AR-E 2623-2-2 plug specifications; also referred as "Mennekes" plugs/sockets

   Type 3 - single and three phase vehicle coupler with shutters - reflecting the EV Plug Alliance proposal; also referred as "SCAME" plugs/sockets

DC connectors – as defined by IEC 62196-3:

   AA configuration : This is nothing but the popular “CHAdeMo” connector. It’s mostly used in Japan, United states and large part of Europe – where the charging system follows IEC 61851-23 standard.

    BB configuration: This is primarily used in China, meant for charging stations that follow the Chinese standard GB/T 20234.3.

    CC & DD configuration: are not defined yet; they are meant for future expansion of DC connectors.

   EE configuration (CCS-1): is nothing but a CCS connector that combines Type-1 coupler.

   FF configuration (CCS-2): is the combination of CCS with Type-2 connectors. In the recent times, this CCS2 connectors have gained much popularity in Europe; and most of the EV car makers adapt CCS2 over CHAdeMo.

No doubt, these are too many standards, levels, modes, plugs , socket-outlets around the electric vehicle charging systems – which can only lead to confusions!. This is normal to any fast growing industry. As the E-Mobility market matures, all these variances may too converge into a few that will make the overall ecosystem better.

Hope this guide has covered most of the info what you expected. Please ask if you need any further details. We’ll be happy to amend the article.

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