Electric car beginner’s guide: Types of current – What is the difference between alternating current and direct current?

AC, DC – what are they anyway? As an e-car newbie, you are often confronted with these and various other “foreign-language” terms and don’t know what to do with them at first. We’ll explain what it’s all about.

Direct current vs. alternating current

Most e-cars can be charged with both direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). The only difference is the charging speed. The batteries of electric cars work with direct current. If the car is charged at a charging station with alternating current, the so-called on-board charger must first convert this into direct current – which is why this charging process takes longer.

Direct current is therefore mainly offered at fast-charging stations on motorways and important junctions in order to supply the arriving cars with electricity as quickly as possible. At charging stations in city centres, for example, you can often only charge with alternating current. However, there are also more and more charging stations that offer both options.

You can recognise which current you are currently charging either in the provider’s app or by the speed. If you are charging at 50 kW or faster, it is usually direct current, as the output of alternating current is limited to 42 kW. You can also easily recognise which type of current is currently flowing into your car by looking at the plug: if it is a CCS plug (Combined Charging System, see here), direct current is used. For slower and gentler charging with alternating current, use the type 2 plug.

Can every e-car charge with direct current?

Most e-cars can be charged with both types of electricity. Smaller cars with a shorter range that are mainly intended for city driving are the exception and can only charge with a type 2 plug and therefore alternating current. For some older models that are only equipped with a type 2 plug, it is necessary to purchase a CCS adapter in order to be able to charge at fast-charging stations.

How fast can I charge my car?

How fast you can charge your car depends on the maximum charging speed of your car, but also on the charging station. This limit of your car differs depending on whether you are charging with direct or alternating current. The Tesla Model 3, for example, can charge with 11 kW at an AC charging station and up to 210 kW at a fast charging station. When it comes to charging stations, it depends on whether it is an AC or DC charging station. A charging station with direct current can provide up to 350 kW, whereas the output of alternating current is limited to 42 kW.

However, charging speeds are constantly developing and faster and faster charging processes are also possible with newer vehicle models.

But you no longer have to worry about waiting times with our charging stations. With us it’s called: Waiting time = quality time! Whether you’re having a coffee in peace, treating yourself to a snack or playing an exciting match against your passenger on our free games consoles – the time until your car is ready to continue its journey will fly by!