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Charging Adapters Can Make EV Road Life Easier


Jun 29, 2023

Charge port designs be damned

The conversation surrounding electric vehicle charging networks in the United States has been heating up recently. With a growing number of manufacturers beginning to implement Tesla's North American Charging Standard (NACS) charging port, the road is looking bright for widespread fast-charging availability in the U.S. But we're not there yet. Even with the growing adoption of the Tesla plug, the national charging infrastructure is far from perfect.

The world of EV charger adapters aims to make living with this infantile network a bit easier, with options to help owners with every style of charge port. Here’s everything you need to know about the different types of EV charge ports, and how adapters can help ease your charging experience.

When you pull up to a gas station with your car, you don’t ever have to ask yourself whether the nozzle at the pump is going to fit in your fuel filler pipe. As things currently stand with the electric vehicle market, that silly scenario can be a bit more of a reality. This is largely due to the fact that not every automaker uses the same charge port for their EVs, with Tesla representing the largest exception to the rule. That said, there are really four main types of charge port that a new or used electric vehicle owner is going to run into: J1772, NACS, CCS1, and CHAdeMO.

The J1772 port is the quintessential electric vehicle charge point at this point in time. The design has been largely adopted across the industry as standard equipment, and allows for Level 1 and Level 2 charging speeds. This means these plugs will provide a maximum output of 19.2 kW, which should bring around 25 miles of range per hour. The vast majority of public charging stations are going to be outfitted with a number of J1772 plugs, such as units from companies like EVgo, Electrify America, and ChargePoint. The plug is distinctly different from the NACS system utilized by Tesla for its Level 1 and Level 2 charging. That design choice was originally intended to keep Tesla chargers exclusive to the brand’s owners. Tesla’s extensive charging network makes that exclusive plug a real bummer for other EV owners, but that’s where adapters can come into play.

An adapter is a bit of hardware that plugs directly into the charger you are using, matching the connector pins to the style utilized by your vehicle. It’s no more complicated than a Lightning to USB-C cable for an iPhone. These offerings allow owners of J1772-equipped machines to hook up to any of Tesla's Wall Connectors, Destination chargers, or Mobile Connectors. There are no adapters that allow a non-Tesla product to access the brand’s Supercharger network of DC fast chargers at this time. With Tesla moving to open a select portion of its charging network to other automakers as part of a deal with the Biden Administration, you might see that change in the near future. J1772 and Tesla connectors are installed on over 96 percent of the EVs in the United States, according to Kelly Blue Book.

While Tesla owners already benefit from the best charging network around, there are a number of adapters on the market (including from Tesla themselves) that allow Tesla vehicles to charge on J1772 plugs. Having one of these in your Tesla ensures that you’ll never really be without a charging option, which only serves to make the car more usable. These adaptors might also be useful for owners who have more than one brand of EV at home. By having either A J1772-to-Tesla connector or vice versa, a single home charger can be made to service either vehicle.

The other main charger type that an EV owner will interact with is the Combined Charging Standard 1 (CCS1) setup. Specifically designed to provide reliable DC fast charging, the CCS1 has become the industry standard fast charging port for non-Tesla products in recent years. That’s largely because the system itself is based on the popular J1772 standard, utilizing a portion of that connector as well as two dedicated DC pins. This is another area in which Tesla owners get a bit of a benefit, as their vehicles can be made to utilize CCS1 chargers by way of an adapter. The same cannot be said in reverse. Tesla Superchargers utilize the same NACS plug as Tesla’s Level 1 and Level 2 offerings, which helps keep things nice and simple for owners.

The final charger type an EV owner might experience in the United States is also a different type of fast charger plug called CHAdeMO. This standard was originally designed by Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi in Japan. The setup predates the CCS1 system, and has largely been considered to have lost that standardization battle. Recent EV models from the likes of Toyota and Nissan have both ditched it in favor of the CCS1 setup. That said, the system can be found on a number of older vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. In other markets, machines like the Prius Prime and Citroen C-Zero also use CHAdeMO. It’s getting less common to see these chargers installed at new charging locations, with providers favoring the more prevalent systems. Due to the locking mechanism involved with CHAdeMO charger, companies have struggled to create adapters in the same capacity as with other charging standards.

That said, Tesla does offer an adapter that allows its customers to use a CHAdeMO fast charger when necessary. EV owners in Europe and elsewhere have been working on methods to get the CHAdeMO and CCS1 systems to communicate properly, with some pretty fascinating efforts available to view on YouTube. Finding a way to keep the CHAdeMO EVs on the road is going to be an important part of the sustainability equation. Now it is important to note that CHAdeMO-equipped vehicles can still charge at up to level 2 speeds on a J1772 connector, but fast-charging requires hooking up to the bespoke port.

When you first purchase your electric vehicle, it will be important to come up with a general charging plan. If it is clear that you will be regularly relying on the public charging network, get a good idea of what sort of chargers are around you. Depending on the model you purchase, an adapter might expand that net dramatically. Be sure to check that the adapter you are looking at is certified to function with that vehicle by the charger manufacturer, as you’ll find these hardware components aren’t always universal. If you happen to be in the market for a Tesla product, getting a few different adapter types will arguably give you the most versatile EV on the road today. That ease of life difference might just be worth some additional cross-shopping.

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