A Single Plug for Europe: Specifications and Reactions

By · February 06, 2013

The Type 2 plug, from German company Mennekes, selected as the official plug in Europe

The Type 2 plug, from German company Mennekes, selected as the official plug in Europe

It was great news when last month the European Commission said it was backing the Mennekes Type 2 plug. But sadly, it didn't earn a lot of cheers. That was a surprise. Many had complained for years because of the lack of an "official plug," but now that there is one, they are silent. That doesn't make a lot of sense, because everybody has a lot to gain from a standard, especially with the Type 2 plug which is the best in the market today thanks to its Swiss Army knife approach.

Is the type 2 plug, AC or DC? Both, the plug's accepts both currents, and it's rated with a max of 43.5 kW with AC and 38 kW with DC.

Is it 1-phase or 3-phase? Both, up to 63A. Drivers will be able to use their garage's wallbox (AC, 1-phase) or a public fast charging station (AC, 3-phase) with the same plug.

Will it be on the car or on the charger? Both sides, with male and female plugs.

German chancellor, Angela Merkel, checks the Type 2 plug

German chancellor, Angela Merkel, checks the Type 2 plug

That's the essential idea of standardization. To make the plug acceptable to all, it has to be the most versatile, and the most user-friendly. The driver shouldn't have to know anything. The EV driver just plugs in. There should be electronics in the car and the charging station to handle all the boring communication exchanges between the two before the actual charging process begins.

There's a lot at stake here. If the electric car is to succeed, building nice EVs will not be enough. Infrastructure must be built in every country, and that calls for the prices of charging stations and all their connectors to dramatically come down. That will not happen if there are several different plugs.

Nissan has been financing hundreds of CHAdeMO fast charge stations in Europe, but there isn't a single European car that can use them. Tesla is doing the same thing with its superchargers network, and not even all Tesla cars can use them. If ICE cars had to rely on a specific fuel for each manufacturer, they would have a problem.

The carmakers understood the necessity of a single plug, and their official European voice, the ACEA in Brussels, welcomed the selection of the Type 2 plug. In the words of Ivan Hodac, the ACEA Secretary General: “This represents a real breakthrough in current discussions on the harmonization of charging.” German press and industrial groups also cheered up, since this is a German design. But, of course, there were several critics.

Siim Kallas introduces the type 2 plug with a car charging, but there is no car which can use the Combo plug

Siim Kallas introduces the Type 2 plug with a car charging, but there is no car which can use the Combo plug

The CHAdeMO group requested that the European Commission consider a dual charging system, since there are more than 600 chargers compatible in Europe right now, and more than 20,000 cars. Then the companies behind the losing Type 3 plug spoke up. Claude Ricaud, head of innovation at Schneider Electric, is still trying to argue that its plug is safer, but neither Mercedes nor Volvo found anything wrong with the Type 2 plug. And there has always been more demand for the Type 2 plug anyway. DBT, the French charging stations leader, has sold more Type 2 plugs than of any other kind last year. Finally, there are people who complain that the new standard is just too slow. Not enough amps with the highest current rated at 43 kW. But Brussels has an answer for that.

The Combo plug, introduced last year at the EVS 26, is still in play, and supported by the European Commission. This Combo, in some respects, is the best with its 170-kW capabilities but it would be more correct to write that it will be the best. Today in Europe, there isn't a single Combo charging station in service, and there would not be many drivers using it even if there was one, since there isn't a single car on the road that can receive a Combo plug. More than that, there isn't a single electric car which can accept 170 kW charging, and most EVs have a battery with less than 40 kWh capacity. So it's a safe bet that for the foreseeable future, 43 kW charging will be fine.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

According to an e-mail I recieved from the European commission the proposal covers only the infrastructure side plug (fast and slow charge). However, ACEA recommends Combo 2 on the car side from 2017.

· · 1 year ago

It's quite awful but nothing can be taken for granted at this stage. I hope we'll get the same plug on both sides (car and station). At least, this is what German makers should deliver. For convenience and the largest economies of scale, I hope everybody will follow.

· · 1 year ago

@Laurent:

Excellent Article! You are the first writer I have seen on any weblog mentioning the very obvious (at least comparing North America to Europe) single versus Polyphase issue. If I lived in Europe I would be glad that there is finally a standardized solution.

The only disadvantage I see is that I am making the big assumption that the DRIVER owns the Attachment Cord, when in America the attachment cord is owned by the public charger dockingstation provider. The reason I'm making that assumption is that if the cord obviously is detachable, almost all of them would be missing sans security cameras.

And assuming the cars work with the IEC protocol, hopefully they would also work on 16 amps 230 volts single phase in America with an adapter, but this still needs to be tested in practice.

Standardization will give the gas driving public more assurance to convert over to at least partially electric driving.... The prior situation did nothing but scare them off.

· · 1 year ago

I've seen such Mennekes-equipped charging stations in Switzerland last year, but the "cable-less" concept seems peculiar to me too.
Having plugs at both ends of the charging cable looks clumsy, having to pack it in the vehicle is inconvenient; I'm not fond of this design.

If cable-less EVSEs become the norm there, I can imagine EVs soon coming with e.g. integrated cord reels (like some vacuums or cloth irons) etc... and rather sooner than later, inductive charging.
Both would be great for convenience but aren't practical for DC quick-charging / L3, for which a separate inlet would remain needed. Oops.

Good to see Europe starting to tackle some of those issues at long last, but sadly there seem to still be a lot of unsettled questions, esp regarding L3. In the meantime I don't expect the Japanese or Tesla to wait for their competitors, so they will continue to press ahead with their existing solutions...

· · 1 year ago

The AC charging (Mennekes type 2 or 3) is a win/win situation. It makes no difference to the car (same socket on the car)

But by focusing on DC Combo 2 they are essentially attempting to delay EVs by 5-10 years, it takes about 5 years to iron out the bugs in a DC charger. They would be wise to accept Chademo's olive branch - dual charging system for DC fast charging with both Chademo and Combo2

I do wonder however, as Renault Zoe can embed a free 43kW charger onboard with its 60kW motor, would a 120kW Zoe RS embed a free 86kW charger onboard? Perhaps the next Mennekes AC variant will be the one to rule Europe.

· · 1 year ago

Please don't let bureaucrats even think about standardization ! Every new plug is an improvement. That is what we call innovation. Chademo offers 50 kWh, DC combo will offer 50 up to 100, Tesla will offer 90, Next generation will offer 200 kWh, etcetera. New chargers, new plugs, new cars. Got the Point ?!

· · 1 year ago

The rule in Europe is that there is a cord in the car for slow charge, and fast chargers have their own.

· · 1 year ago

To really get the equivalent of a gas car filling a 500 miles range in 2 minutes, we would need to have a 3 MW charger. If done at 400 Volt 3 phases, that would imply 4811 A and about square inch wires. If we want to do that we will have to change from a plug to an under the car connection system. Four broad metal plates on a rubber bumper that connect with four similar plates under your car. Hum, this sound familiar with the Park & Forget system. Could it be that it would not only open the way for truly convenient charging but that it would also allow true fast charging in 2 minutes. Well apparently, if the math is valid, it does look like it.

· · 1 year ago

To take it a little further (that’s when things really get interesting isn’t it), a fighter jet in aerial refueling is sucking in kerosene at a rate of about 2 gallons per second. Assuming a gallon is 40 KWh, that mean the hose is feeding at an amazing 288 MW of power. To get the electrical equivalent we would need 100 square inch wires or increase the voltage from 400 V to 40000 Volts on the same one square inch wires. Of course this doesn’t tell anything about the very special battery in the fighter that would be able to swallow that energy that fast enough and store it. There is however a very special kind of storage called a SMES (Super Conducting Electromagnetic Storage) that could be able to do just that. But to avoid exceeding the superconductor current density limit it would have to be rather large. So the fighter fitted with this large torus shaped SMES would start to look like a flying doonut with wings. Perhaps the doonut could be formed a bit in the shape of a lifting body wing or an MHD drive could get away will it all together. But that would then really look like a flying saucer. How strange it would be that real physics would finally bring us to that very particular shape.

· · 1 year ago

Chademo's TEPCO plug is in use today for duty including burst mode 160kW for 8kWH (3mins).
the cable is much thicker though.

· · 1 year ago

So does the car charging dock own the coiled cord Angela Merkel is holding or does the car owner own it? What do you do about theft? I would imagine the cord is not cheap.

· · 1 year ago

The car owner does Bill. You bring the cable around with you. I would hope there is a way to lock it to the car & charger. I actually prefer this method as opposed to how we do it here in the States. You want to talk about theft, wait till the thieves realize the cables aren't energized while an EVSE isn't in use. They are going to be cutting them off all the time. Especially overnight in desolate parking lots/garages. Then it will take forever to get them replaced and if it happens frequently the property managers will just stop fixing them because of the hassle and cost.
I would much prefer to bring my cable with me as long as it locks into the car while charging.

· · 1 year ago

@Tom

So what's to prevent someone from using an insulated Lineman's Plier's (theives aren't that dumb) to cut the cord for the copper?

If its the car owner who has to constantly replace his cable (and TWO expensive connectors on each end), the mall owner has no incentive to provide security since its not his dime.

It doesn't seem like much of a lock to me, I thought the Tesla S was the only vehicle that locked the cord end (and I seem to remember it doesn't reliably lock anyway).

If it doesn't lock then the car owner can purchase previously stolen cord sets on EBAY.

· · 1 year ago

I agree it would need to be locked Bill. I just think there is a lot less chance of someone cutting it off knowing it's energized and also knowing the owner may be walking back to it as they are doing it. The EVSE's sitting is empty lots & garages are easy pickens and a thief can make a score and clip three or four of them in under a minute. Neither way is foolproof, I'd just prefer to do it the European way and have the owner supply the cable for public charging.

I'd prefer if the cables weren't left there on the EVSE because I know there will be problems as we see more and more public chargers installed. I installed two public chargers on a commercial property I own and in about 8 months I've had two incidents of vandalism already.

· · 1 year ago

@Laurent: thanks for confirming that in Europe, for L2 charging, the cable is always provided by the driver/vehicle, while for L3 it's obviously the opposite.
The idea of a "combo plug" definitely makes even less sense there than in the US then.

@lpati: glad to learn that (some) CHAdeMO connectors can handle so much juice. I knew their design had some margin but I thought it would max out closer to 200~250A. Now, 400A, wow... no wonder cables get thick :-)

@Tom: I'd tend to agree with Bill that having the cables attached to the EVSEs is preferable.
Those can be hardened where necessary. Having a cable energized btw won't deter anyone, as simply unpluging it solves that, even more convincincly so if that's the "supply" end which can be disconnected. By design, the EVSE's GFCI would spare even the most stupid theif from getting a serious jolt anyway.

Beyond just security considerations: if a US-style EVSE is vandalized, I can (hopefully) find another one. In Europe, I may have my own cable going missing instead; I'd be SOL unless I already had a spare... or, well, maybe I steal someone else's? :-/

Re after-market cables precisely: problems are bound to happen eventually as some drivers will end up with undersized and/or counterfeit versions. To help avoid this, again, some manufacturers may be tempted to introduce their own connectors, or (semi-)permanently attach the cable to the car...

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