Charging Cables and Adapters

Estimated reading time: 3 min

Parts of this article have been adapted from: https://spaceboatoflightandwonder.wordpress.com

So, it turns out that there is no agreed upon “best” way to get the electricity from the charger into your car.  Different electric car manufacturers put different sockets on their cars and there are a bunch of different vendors of electricity on the road that cater to different types of socket.  To me, it seems pointlessly confusing, but there you go.

Anyway, Tesla uses a socket on the car which looks like what’s called a “type 2” connector. It turns out that there is some cleverness in the socket design that means that the Model S can use a standard type 2 connector, but the Supercharger has a plug that is able to reach the parts that a normal type 2 connector cannot reach.[1] This enables the supercharger to unleash the beast on your Model S without people being able to accidentally plug their Renault Zoe into it, or something like that. I’m guessing that there is some kind of software-based safety mechanism too. Anyway, there are a bunch of Superchargers dotted about the place, but they’re basically quite rare outside the south east at the moment. So, if you want to give yourself the best chance of arriving at your destination without potentially having to make some extensive detours, then you’re going to want to get hold of some adaptors to allow you to charge at non-supercharger locations. We kind of knew this when we ordered our car, but there wasn’t any comprehensive list of what you need for what. So, here you go…

What do you get for free / included with the car?

Tesla gives you some adaptors to allow you to charge at home.  This comes in a handy bag with all the bits in.  It looks like this:

 

This is basically a long (six metres) cable that has a plug that goes into the car on one end and another plug on the other end.  You can then connect either a 3-pin domestic plug or a “commando” plug onto the end of the cable.  Charging from a 3-pin plug is eminently possible (we’ve done it a number of times) but it’s painfully slow.  You get about 6 mph charging rate. The reason that they give you the commando plug is probably because that’s the kind of charging socket that the Tesla “voucher” for a home charger gets you.  This is a perfectly serviceable charger, but has the disadvantage that you kind of have to get the cable out and plug it into charger and then to the car every time you get home.  This is too much of a faff for us, so we opted for a “ROLEC” charger, which was available through a government-sponsored grant and has an integrated cable built into it (unfortunately, that grant is no longer available 😦 ).

As an aside, here’s what our chargers look like:

The one on the left is the Tesla-sponsored one (now not available) and the one on the right is the ROLEC one.  Firstly, you’ll notice that we have both chargers.  That’s because it turned out that it was cheaper to get both chargers installed than it was to get one installed.  It seemed like a no-brainer to us.  You can just seen the cable emerging from the bottom of the ROLEC charger.

So, that’s the stuff that comes as standard. You can charge at home and you can supercharge.

Charging at CHAdeMO chargers

CHAdeMO chargers are important in the UK because [the green energy company] Ecotricity is building what it calls the “Electric Highway“. There are a lot more of these chargers than there are Tesla superchargers and they cover a much wider area of the country.  Bonus. The Ecotricity chargers (or “electricity pumps”, as they like to call them 🙂 ) have a whole bunch of connectors on them, one of which is a type 2 connector. However, this is a bit of a red herring, since this connector doesn’t deliver that much power. The one that you want for charging the Model S is the CHAdeMO connector, which you’ll need an adaptor to connect to.  This adaptor contains the biggest plug I’ve ever owned. It looks like this:

Unfortunately, this thing is quite expensive. There’s no easy way to say this… it’s £404.  Once you’ve got it though it’s fairly easy to use and the Ecotricity “fast” chargers are something like 50 kW.  We typically get a charge rate of about 100 mph from them.

We find that the CHAdeMO adaptor and the standard cable kit fit quite happily into one of the side pockets in the Model S boot. This keeps them out of the way and means that stuff that you have in the boot doesn’t obstruct your access to them.

Read this full guide on the Tesla CHAdeMO adaptor

Type 2 plugs

The type 2 plug is commonly found on slower chargers.  Things like Chargemaster charge points (which you have to pay for, so we don’t tend to use them).  However, you also sometimes find these types of plug in things like shopping centre car parks, which can be helpful. Anyway, if you want to use this type of charging point, then you have to have another cable in the car.  Ours looks like this:

Summary

So, that’s all the cables that we find one needs for almost any occasion. Here’s a picture showing what all the plugs actually look like on all the different types of cable, sometimes that kind of thing is useful 🙂

Notes

[1] – See post by “Donald” on 6th Jan 2016 here

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