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When charging your electric car, the difference between direct current and alternating current largely determines the charging speed. We have summarized everything important about this topic for you.

What is the difference between direct current and alternating current in an electric car?

CCS2 plug electric car
You charge the e-car faster with direct current. Source: Adobe Stock

You can charge an electric car with direct current (DC) or with alternating current (AC). The biggest difference between the two types of electricity for you as an e-car owner is the speed. At the so-called fast charging stations you can get direct current, while with slow chargers you usually get alternating current. How fast you can charge with it and what that depends on, we explain later in the article.

Why does my car charge faster with direct current?

Electric cars like the Aiways U5 sold by Euronics: cleaner than a petrol engine
E-cars usually have a battery that runs on DC power.

DC-powered e-cars charge faster because the car’s batteries also supply DC. If you charge your electric car with alternating current, the car must first convert it into direct current using a so-called board loader. That will take longer.

You can get AC power at all slow charging stations, many also offer both types, namely AC and DC. In that case you can decide by the column. If you charge your car at home via a wallbox or a socket with a Schuko cable, you also charge with alternating current – ​​so slower.

How can I tell if the charging station is charging with direct current or alternating current?

Charging e-cars, plug
The CCS connector (on the front of the photo) supplies DC power. The Type 2 connector (in the background) supplies AC power. Source: Adobe Stock

You can often see in the provider’s app where you can charge DC, AC, or even both. Many apps for electric charging also provide an overview of charging stations from all providers. As a rule, you can also see here what type of charging station it is.

If you can charge here at 50 kW or faster, it is usually a DC fast charging station. Because alternating current can currently only be charged with a maximum of 42 kW.

In addition to the speed, the type of plug or connection also tells you which current comes out. In Europe you use a CCS plug for fast direct current. The CCS stands for Combined Charging System and allows you to charge with direct current.

For slow charging or AC charging, use a Type 2 plug. If both plug types are available at the charging station, you can also use both types of power here.

There is another option: CHAdeMO. This is a type of plug and connector commonly found on older Japanese electric cars. This is how you charge direct current in your car. However, this type of connector is quite rare in Europe and is likely to become extinct as newer models in this country rely on Type 2 or CCS.

On the column itself you can of course also see whether it has a cable with a CCS connector or whether you can connect your type 2 cable. Some columns also have a type 2 cable installed permanently.

Can my car charge with direct current?

Dacia Spring
You pay extra for a CCS connection on the Dacia Spring.

Most electric cars can charge with direct current, so use fast charging stations. But this does not apply to all Stromer. It depends on the existing connections. With city e-cars you can often only get the CCS connection as an extra extra, such as with the Dacia Spring.

When purchasing, make sure you bring the CCS connection for DC fast charging, because you’ll need it sooner or later. If the car only has a type 2 connection, only slow charging with alternating current is possible.

What does the maximum speed depend on?

Electric car, shopping, Renault Zoe
If the car charges slowly, you can go shopping, for example. Source: Adobe Stock

The maximum speed at which you can charge your electric car depends on two factors: your car and the charging station. The cars themselves have a speed limit at which they are allowed to charge. This is different for direct current and alternating current. Of the Aviation U5 for example, charging alternating current with up to 6.6 kW, while managing 92 kW with direct current.

The charging stations also have a maximum speed. Fast charging stations can charge up to 350 kW and more. With slow alternating current, the limit is 43 kW.

However, the car does not always charge at the maximum possible charging speed, even if the charging station would allow it. If the battery is relatively empty, the car will charge faster. The more fully charged the battery, the slower the speed. This is the rule of thumb. How quickly this falls off varies from model to model.

Is fast charging more expensive than slow charging?

charging station, charging station
Fast charging is usually a bit more expensive. Source: Adobe Stock

Yes, fast charging is usually more expensive than slow charging. However, the prices always depend on the provider. So it may well be that you can get direct current for the same price as alternating current. Charging at home is usually cheapest with your own wallbox. This works best with off-peak current if your contract with the energy supplier allows it.

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