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Unraveling the Mysteries of NACS and J1772 for EV Enthusiasts

Electric car charger plug type 1 isolated on white background..
ElecJ1772 car charger plug

The electrification of vehicles is a major leap towards sustainable transportation. Among the myriad details that enthusiasts and professionals in the electric vehicle community, such as Army of the Tread, must navigate, understanding the different charging connectors is essential. This post will demystify two primary EV charging standards: the North American Charging Standard (NACS) and the J1772, also known as the SAE J1772 or Type 1 connector.

Introduction to EV Charging Standards

Before diving into specifics, it’s important to understand what EV charging standards entail. These standards are not merely about the physical shape of the connectors but encompass specifications for electrical power, communication protocols between the charger and the vehicle, safety features, and more. Standards ensure compatibility and safety across different vehicles and charging infrastructure.

The SAE J1772 Connector

The SAE J1772 connector, commonly referred to as the Type 1 connector, has been widely used in North America and other regions for Level 1 and Level 2 charging. Developed and published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), this standard covers both the physical connector and the communication protocol needed for charging electric vehicles.

Characteristics of J1772:

  • Physical Design: The J1772 connector features a round shape with five pins. These include two pins for AC power, one pin for the proximity pilot (PP), one for the control pilot (CP), and a ground pin.
  • Charging Levels: It supports Level 1 charging (120 V AC) which is typically used for home charging and can take several hours to fully charge a vehicle, and Level 2 charging (up to 240 V AC) which offers faster charging speeds and is often found in public charging stations.
  • Communication Protocol: The J1772 connector uses a specific communication protocol to ensure that the vehicle and charging station communicate effectively for optimal charging. This protocol helps manage the initiation and termination of charging, as well as the charging rate.
  • Safety Features: The connector is equipped with safety measures such as state monitoring through the CP signal, which ensures that power is only transferred when the connector is securely attached to the vehicle.

Use Cases:

The J1772 is predominantly used in home and public charging stations for a wide range of vehicles from various manufacturers. Its adoption is supported by its integration in most non-Tesla electric vehicles sold in North America.

The North American Charging Standard (NACS)

NACS, formerly known as the Tesla connector in North America, represents a newer and more universal approach to EV charging. Initially proprietary to Tesla vehicles, this connector has been opened up by Tesla for use by other manufacturers, signaling a shift towards a more standardized EV charging landscape.

Characteristics of NACS:

  • Physical Design: The NACS connector is slimmer and more compact compared to the J1772. It integrates both AC and DC charging capabilities into a single connector type, unlike the J1772 which only supports AC.
  • Charging Levels: NACS supports Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging, similar to J1772, but also includes capabilities for DC fast charging, which significantly reduces charging time.
  • Communication Protocol: Tesla has developed a sophisticated communication protocol for the NACS that not only manages charging but also allows for updates and diagnostics over the air, enhancing user convenience and safety.
  • Safety Features: Like the J1772, NACS connectors are designed with multiple safety protocols to prevent electric shocks and ensure secure connections during charging.

Use Cases:

The use of NACS is rapidly expanding as more manufacturers adopt this standard. It’s commonly found in Tesla Superchargers and is becoming increasingly available in other public charging networks.

Comparing J1772 and NACS

While both connectors serve the same primary function of charging electric vehicles, there are notable differences:

  • Design and Usability: NACS’s compact and multipurpose design offers a more streamlined user experience, particularly for fast charging.
  • Compatibility and Availability: J1772 is widely adopted across a diverse range of EVs and charging stations. In contrast, NACS, despite its growing adoption, is still primarily associated with Tesla and its partner networks.
  • Future Proofing: NACS’s capability for high-speed DC charging makes it a potentially more future-proof option as the demand for faster charging solutions grows.

Putting it Together

For members of Army of the Tread EV and broader EV enthusiasts, understanding these standards is crucial not just for practical reasons but also to anticipate future trends in EV technologies. Whether opting for a vehicle with a J1772 or NACS connector, users are empowered by understanding their options, ensuring that they can make informed decisions that best suit their lifestyle and charging needs.

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