Charging an Electric Car: Understanding the Right Cables and Plug Types

Kamilya - November 3, 2023

Quiet, efficient, and emissions-free - the future belongs to electric cars. You'd like to own one, but you're concerned about the complexities of charging and the charging infrastructure?

It's not as difficult as it may seem, as we at CARIFY have found out for you. We'll explain the various plugs and charging stations and how to use them.

Charging an Electric Car – Which Plug Is the Right One?

Not all electricity is the same, which can make charging electric cars seem complicated at first glance. In addition to different current strengths, your charging cable also needs to be suitable for the type of electricity flowing at the charging station. Different plugs ensure there is no confusion.

In this article, we'll explain everything about charging stations, plugs, and, of course, safety when charging electric cars.

All Types of Charging Stations

The charging infrastructure for electric cars is continually improving. Charging stations can be found not only at gas stations or parking lots but also along the streets, where electric car owners can recharge their vehicles. And then, there's the home-based wallbox. It would be nice if a single charging cable could fit every charging station, but as we introduce you to the different charging options, you'll quickly understand why that's not feasible.

But first, a few words about the types of electricity:

  1. Alternating Current (AC): This is electricity that regularly reverses its flow or polarity. We encounter this type of electricity in our daily lives, as it flows through all electrical networks and comes from nearly every power outlet worldwide. However, electric car batteries can only store direct current, so alternating current needs to be converted into direct current during the charging process, which slows down the charging process.

  2. Direct Current (DC): Direct current flows consistently in one direction. Besides car batteries, direct current plays a significant role in photovoltaics - solar panels produce direct current, which needs to be converted into alternating current for household use. Generating direct current from alternating current requires a rectifier, and the reverse process requires an inverter.

  3. AC Charger: These can be found in parking lots or public streets and have a charging power of up to 22 kW (alternating current), which is usually sufficient for most electric cars for a quick top-up. Most electric cars use only 11 kW. Your charging cable should have a Type 2 plug for these chargers.

  4. DC Charger: Gas stations and charging parks have fast charging stations that provide direct current (DC). Their charging power ranges from 50-240 kW, allowing you to charge your car in just a few minutes. To use fast charging stations, you need a CCS (Combo) plug. The cables and plugs are located at the charging station.

  5. HPC Fast Charging Station: The abbreviation stands for High Power Charging, and that already tells you what to expect from this type of station connected to the medium-voltage grid: more power. With charging power of up to 350 kW, it's more than most current electric cars can handle. You can charge your vehicle for a 100 km range in just 5 minutes.

  6. Wallbox: These compact charging stations run on alternating current and charge electric cars slowly. They are ideal if you don't use your vehicle for several hours overnight or during work hours. They often come with a compatible Mode 3 charging cable and a Type 2 plug.

  7. Power Outlet: Electric cars can even be charged using a regular Swiss Type T13 power outlet, but this should be the exception and usually comes with reduced charging power. The suitable Mode 2 charging cable is typically included with electric cars.

  8. High-Power Outlet: If you have a CEE high-power outlet (red) or a CEE camping outlet (blue) in your garage, you just need an appropriate adapter for the Mode 2 charging cable to charge your electric car for an extended period.

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Explaining Electric Car Plug Types

In the previous section, we discussed various plug and cable types. Now, let's take a closer look at them.

Mode 2 Charging Cable

This cable operates on alternating current and has a household plug on one end and a charging plug that fits into the electric car on the other. In between, there is a control box and a temperature sensor that automatically shuts off the plug if it starts to overheat. Since household outlets are not designed for continuous charging, this option should only be used for temporary situations.

Mode 3 Charging Cable

Equipped with a Type 2 plug, this cable serves as the link between the wallbox and the electric car. You can get it in various lengths, either single-phase or three-phase, and with different current strengths (16, 20, or 32 A; alternating current). Higher current strengths affect the price and weight but reduce the charging time. Ideally, the wallbox already comes with a permanently installed charging cable.

Type 2 Plug

This plug, standardized across the EU since 2013, fits into wallboxes and charging stations that supply alternating current. When combined with the Mode 3 charging cable and a three-phase connection, it allows charging at up to 22 kW (400 V, 32 A).

Mode 4 Charging Cable

Since the conversion from alternating current to direct current occurs at the fast charging station, these charging stations require specific charging cables capable of handling currents up to 400 A. These cables are permanently attached to the station.

CCS Plug

Larger in size than the Type 2 plug, the CCS plug features additional positive and negative contacts for direct current. It is the most widely used plug for charging electric cars.

Chademo Plug

Originating from Japan, this plug is only found in older Japanese electric vehicles for separate fast charging with direct current.

Charging an electric car

Charging an Electric Car: Charging Times

The time it takes to fully charge your electric car depends on several factors. Charging with direct current is significantly faster than with alternating current because it eliminates the conversion process. Additionally, the cable and plug capacities play a role. However, the most crucial factors are the strength of the power source and the charging power of the vehicle.

Charging at a household outlet can take up to 14 hours, while at a fast charging station, you can be back on the road with a full battery in as little as 30 minutes.

What Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Car?

The TCS (Touring Club Switzerland) has also considered this question and answered it as follows: In 2023, the average electricity price in Switzerland was 27.2 Swiss Rappen per kWh. This means that the electricity costs for charging at a home wallbox are approximately 5 Swiss Francs per 100 km.

Prices per kilowatt-hour may vary at public charging stations, and they are significantly higher at fast charging stations. Initial and parking costs may also apply at fast charging stations.

The vehicle's consumption also plays a role. You'd have to pay almost three times as much to travel 100 km with a conventional combustion engine. Even when you add up all the costs associated with owning a car, the cost per kilometer for an electric car remains lower than that of a conventional vehicle.

How Public Charging Stations Work

You can use public charging stations anytime to charge your electric car. However, keep in mind that it will cost you more than charging at your home wallbox. Fast charging comes with a premium price. How do you pay for it? You have the option of making direct payments with a credit card or subscribing to an Electro Mobility Provider. They provide you with a charging card through which the charging costs are billed. This option is usually more cost-effective. Often, multiple providers form a charging network.

Before making a decision, you should check the availability of networks in your region.

Apps provide an overview of the charging infrastructure, helping you plan your routes effectively. They also inform you about the type of connection, the charging power of the charging point, and whether it is currently in use. You can even reserve the charging station.

Given the high prices at fast charging stations, it's advisable to use them only in emergencies.

Safety When Charging an Electric Car - What to Consider:

First of all, if charging electric cars were a safety risk, they would have been prohibited long ago. Even in heavy rain, there is no risk of an electric shock. In addition to safety tips, we'll provide you with some advice to get the most out of your battery.

  1. Inspect the cable for damage before charging.

  2. Ensure the compatibility of the charging plugs with your car and connect the cable correctly.

  3. Use only secure power sources and avoid overheating.

  4. Don't leave the cable on the ground after charging.

  5. Maintaining a continuous charge between 20% and 80% prolongs the battery's lifespan and performance.

  6. Avoid frequent fast charging, as it places high demands on the battery cells.

  7. Cold temperatures lengthen the charging process and reduce battery performance. In winter, it's better to park the electric car in a garage.

  8. If your vehicle will be idle for an extended period, keep the charge level between 50% and 60%. This helps preserve the battery.


Charging electric cars is made easy with the right cables and plugs. Most charging stations are already equipped with the correct connectors, so you only need to carry a charging cable for emergencies. When it comes to paying at public charging stations, you have several flexible options.

So, there's nothing holding you back from getting your first electric car.

CARIFY's Most Popular Electric Cars

With an electric car subscription from CARIFY, you can easily test the new way of driving, such as the popular VW e-Golf. Many of our commercial vehicles are also environmentally friendly, like the VW T6.1 ABTe. You can even find some SUVs as electric options with us, such as the JAC e-JS4.

The monthly rate includes all costs except for electricity, and we offer you an Explorer subscription, which provides you with favorable conditions at public charging points in Switzerland's largest charging network.

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