The world of EVs is rapidly changing, but I’ve done some research and compiled everything I’ve learned about EV charging into this article, up-to-date for 2020. 

So, do all electric cars use the same ‘universal’ plugs and chargers? In short, all electric car brands in North America use the same standard plugs for normal-speed charging (Level 1 and Level 2 Charging), or will come with a suitable adapter. However, different EV brands use different standards for faster DC charging (Level 3 Charging). Tesla, for example, uses its own proprietary charging system and has its own network of Tesla Superchargers. We’ll talk more about this later.

You can read below to learn more about electric vehicle charging standards for all levels of charging and which brands of cars can charge at which charging stations (including charging at different types of charging stations). Enjoy!

What Type of Different Plugs & Chargers Are There?

To start off, let’s take a look at the various plug options available. There are a few different levels of charging for electric vehicles which reflect the speed and voltage at which you can charge your EV. 

Level 1 Charging (120-volt AC) 

All EVs come with a charging cord that can plug into a normal grounded wall socket (like the standard 120-volt electrical outlets you’ll find inside your house). 

Electrical Outlet

This type of charging is known as Level 1 Charging, and is the slowest type of charging available. It is usually only used for at-home charging, with a standard electrical outlet.

Level 2 Charging (240-volt AC) 

Most home and public EV charging stations charge at 240 volts with their cables connecting to the standard charging port on your car.

Electric Vehicle Charging at Public Charging Station - Do EVs use the same chargers?
Public Charging Station (Level 2 Charging)

All EVs sold in North America use the same standard Level 2 charging plug. This means that you can charge any electric vehicle at any standard Level 2 charging station in North America.

These stations charge multiple times faster than Level 1 charging. However, note that if you install one of these units at home, it will require professional wiring and installation.

While Tesla has its own Level 2 at-home chargers, other at-home EV charging stations exist. If you own any full-electric vehicle, such as the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, or Chevy Bolt, you will need to install an at-home charging station for overnight charging.

Level 2 charging stations are the most common type of EV charging stations installed at public spaces and private businesses. If you’ve seen an EV charging station at your local grocery store or the parking garage at your gym, it was most likely a Level 2. 

For both Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations, every EV in the United States use the same J-1772 plug (also known as the J-Plug) to charge.

SAE J1772 Plug - Do EVs use the same chargers?
J-1772 Standard Plug / Photo courtesy of  Michael Hicks (flickr “mulad”) / CC BY 2.0

Teslas come equipped with an adaptor for the J-1772 standard, so they can still be plugged in at normal EV charging stations. 

DC Fast Charging (Level 3 Charging) 

This type of charging uses direct current (DC) rather than alternating current (AC) for a faster, more high powered charging experience. With DC fast charging, there are three different types of charging stations: 

  • Tesla Supercharger: Tesla has its own network of high-powered fast-charging stations that can only be used by Tesla owners, and we go into more detail here later on.
  • CHAdeMO: The most popular standard type, used by the Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul, Citroen C-Zero, Honda Fit, and more.
  • CCS: Many automakers use this type, including EVs produced by Volkswagen, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Mercedes, and Volvo.

Note: If you own a Tesla, you can buy adapters to charge at CHAdeMO or CCS charging stations. However, as of now, non-Tesla vehicles cannot charge at Tesla superchargers.

One important thing to remember about charging any electric vehicle: you cannot overcharge them! Some early misinformation raised concerns among consumers that EVs could be overcharged, leading to a rapid depletion of their batteries or even a fire hazard. The truth is, you cannot overcharge EV batteries thanks to built-in technology that manages their battery packs.

What is a Tesla Supercharger?

Tesla is the runaway leader in the electric vehicle market. The Tesla Model 3, a more affordable model from the groundbreaking auto house headed up by Elon Musk, has become the best-selling electric vehicle in the world. This is due, in large part, to the relatively low price point (compared to Tesla’s previous best-seller, the Model S) and the work Tesla has done to brand itself as the industry leader in EVs.

This is despite the fact that electric vehicle models being produced by traditional car manufacturers, like Ford and Nissan, are even less expensive. But some of the luxury features included in the Tesla, such as its famous autopilot mode, keep the Model 3 in a class above its competitors. Because of that, Tesla still maintains an outsized influence in the electric vehicle market. 

In addition to providing some of the best-selling electric vehicles on the market, Tesla manufactures its own brand of charging stations, called Tesla Superchargers. These Superchargers are installed along popular driving routes throughout the world. As of 2019, Tesla has over 9,000 Superchargers across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Tesla Supercharging Station - Do EVs use the same chargers?
Tesla Supercharging Station

Superchargers allow you to charge your electric vehicle at a very rapid rate for an EV. That means they take about 20 minutes to charge your battery about 50 percent and about 75 minutes for a full charge. Many of these Superchargers are located at Supercharging Stations, which are like modern fueling stations, often near shopping centers and coffee shops so you can get some errands done or relax while your vehicle charges.

In 2019, Tesla opened its first V3 Supercharging Station in Las Vegas. This is a big and exciting development, as this new type of Supercharger enables drivers to charge their vehicles in about half the time of a V2 Supercharging Station – if not less. The hope is that these new stations will cut down the wait times for Tesla drivers, and continue to move the industry towards a shorter charge time in general.

Can I Charge a Non-Tesla Vehicle at a Supercharger?

Tesla, of course, is not the only electric vehicle on the market. As the electric vehicle industry continues to evolve, there are signs that automakers are beginning to standardize the charging plugs and ports so that, as with a traditional gas-power vehicle, any EV can be charged at any station.

Unfortunately, we are not quite there yet. As the owner of an electric vehicle, you will need to understand the type of charging port your vehicle requires, and which types of charging stations will work for your needs.

This is changing quickly, and Tesla’s external charger, or EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) is expected to support non-Tesla vehicles in the near future.

Can I Charge My Tesla Without a Supercharger?

Tesla also sells a home charging unit (level 2 charging) that will make it easy to charge your vehicle overnight conveniently from your own garage. You can also charge from a normal 120-volt electrical outlet.

Every Tesla also comes equipped with a standard J-1772 plug so you can charge at any Level 2 charging station in North America. And, if you want to use a fast DC charging station that isn’t a Tesla supercharger, you can buy adapters from Tesla to use with the CCS or CHAdeMO standard.

Charging Into the Future

As the electric vehicle revolution continues to roll on, it is important to remember that the technology related to charging these vehicles is always improving. That means that, in a few short years, some of the growing pains consumers currently experience will likely be addressed – from the lack of a standardized charging mechanism to the amount of time it takes to fully charge an EV battery. The return on your investment in an electric vehicle is likely to only increase in the very near future.


About the Author: Jordan McDowell

Jordan McDowell is a writer and content strategist specializing in technically-oriented B2B and B2C content. Check out Jordan’s site, EVConnect.com.

Edited By: Hugh

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2 Comments

  1. Whomever was first, all those following should have, and should, follow that charge system at all levels, as it would benefit all manufacturers and all customers. Standards benefit everyone, while proprietary limited hurts everyone. I came close last year to buying an electric, but the compatibility question (answered in double talk by dealers, of course) and cost of adapters was a big turnoff…no pun intended. Also that the most expensive, Tesla and the Chevy Bolt were both out of the tax credit range, turned me away from those brands, since even after the full tax credit, an electric is a lot more expensive than a comparable gasoline car.

    Oh well, maybe next year. Now that the Democrats have control, maybe they’ll reinstate credits for Tesla and Chevy (which the Democrat-controlled committee refused when Trump was president.) Once again the price of politics is paid by the citizens. Maybe the still vaporware eMustang will be worth a look.

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