Which charging cable do I need for my electric car?

When do I need a charging cable?

At fast charging stations you don't need to bring your own charging cable. These stations always have their own cable attached and all you have to do is plug in. So on the highway and fast charging hubs in the city, there is no need to have anything with you other than your charging card.

At home you don't need your own Schuko charging cable. Basically, it starts with the fact that Schuko cables are a fire hazard and I always recommend a wall box or a real mobile charging cable like the NRGkick. You can find out more about Schuko cables and home charging here. When buying a wallbox, I would always make sure that it already has a cable attached. This is simply much more convenient and there is usually no difference in price.

At the public charging station you need a so-called type 2 charging cable. There are also a few who are already equipped with one. But usually you have to bring one with you. The Type 2 charging cable has a Type 2 plug on both sides and connects the car to the charging station.

Noch einmal laden, dann ist Wochenende.

Thanks again to Bertone for this great photo.

Worth knowing about charging cables

Before you go out and buy a charging cable, I would first check whether my car already comes with a type 2 charging cable. Just ask the dealer and make sure that he is talking about a type 2 cable. Not about a Schuko cable. At smart, you used to have the choice of whether you wanted a type 2 cable or a Schuko cable or even both. The latter then cost extra.

I would only choose the type 2 cable. And if it comes from the dealer, then it's definitely the right cable for the car.

"The right" cable is also a term that you have to get used to. Basically, every type 2 cable works with every car. It doesn't matter whether it's a Mercedes cable on a Tesla or a third-party cable on the electric car of your choice. Type 2 is a standardized plug and works with all brands and manufacturers.

The only possible fault is that the cable cannot do as much power as the car. The car recognizes this and only charges as much as the cable can handle. This of course creates an unnecessary bottleneck and results in slower charging.

What do I have to pay attention to so that the cable can do as much as my electric car?

All manufacturers usually state how fast the car can charge AC and DC. Some also say CCS and type 2. When it comes to charging cables, we are interested in type 2, i.e. AC. There are outputs from 3.7 kW up to 22 kW. The easiest way is to look for a charging cable that has exactly this information. This is then in the description of the cable.

By the way, most cars can do 11 kW. An exception are the more luxurious ones, like the smart #1, the Porsche Taycan and the like. These do 22 kW, but also come with a cable.


This article focuses on Europe with the type 2 plug. In the USA you've got Typ 1 which is the same as J1772 and technically like type 2, but only with a single phase and usually 240 V. There this article is already a great help, but I'd recommend asking in my forum, if you've got any questions. We're happy to support you there.

If you want to buy a cable, I would personally pay attention to the manufacturer. Cheap cables from Asia work just as well. But they tend to break after 6-12 months. If you buy cheap, you buy twice. A type 2 charging cable usually easily outlasts the car. As with the wall box, you buy it once and then you usually never need a new one.

Well-known brands for type 2 cables are Mennekes, Phoenix Contact and also Lapp. They also supply car manufacturers themselves with cables. The Mercedes cables in the examples below are Mennekes cables with a Mercedes label.

Coiled cable or smooth?

Personally, I think coiled cables are great. They are more compact in the trunk, you don't have to wind them up and they are generally more elegant to handle. But when the power gets too high, they become uncomfortable. From 3.7 kW to 11 kW I would always use coiled cables. Even if they are noticeably more expensive. With 22 kW cables I would then go for smooth cables. Even if there are still a few coiled available.

But in the end that is also a matter of taste. Most manufacturers and suppliers only offer smooth cables.

Welches Ladekabel brauche ich für mein Elektroauto?

The most important things summarized

In most cases, the right cable is already included with the vehicle when you buy it, and you can use it to charge anywhere without exception. If there is none, you can ask the dealer if he can sell you one or at least tell you how many kW the car can charge via type 2. With this value you can then search online for one.

You can't do much wrong and in any case you can't break anything. You can definitely buy a used cable if you come across a good one. Type 2 cables are usually almost indestructible.

If you want to know more about it: phases and current

Now we reach the part that you do not necessarily have to know perfectly in order to buy a charging cable. It is usually enough to buy an 11 kW cable for an 11 kW car and then everything will work. If you want to know more about it, you are welcome to read on.

Strictly speaking, with charging cables you can also pay attention to how many phases they have and what kind of current they support. This table provides an overview:

Power Current Phases Note
3,7 kW
20 A 1 Although 16 A is sufficient, 20 A is standard for this output. There are also charging stations that require 20 A for 3.7 kW
4,6 kW 20 A 1 -
7,2 kW 32 A 1 Nowadays quite rare due to unbalanced loads in cars
7,2 kW 20 A 2 Although 16 A is sufficient, 20 A is standard for this output. There are also charging stations that require 20 A for 7.2 kW
11 kW 20 A 3 Although 16 A is sufficient, 20 A is standard for this output. There are also charging stations that require 20 A for 11 kW
13,8 kW 20 A 3 -
22 kW 32 A 3 -
43 kW 63 A 3 There are no charging cables for this output. Type 2 charging stations with 43 kW always have an attached charging cable

The voltage is relatively unimportant. Some state 230 - 250 V, others 380 -400 V. You can mostly ignore that, some suppliers don't even know what they are saying. 230 - 250V is 1 phase AC or 3 phase and measured between phase and neutral. While 380 - 400V is 3 phase and then measured between the phases.

It can be an indication of whether it is a 1-phase or 3-phase charging cable. But it doesn't have to be, because it can also simply be specified incorrectly.

For which current and with how many phases the cable is designed is always written somewhere on it with a label like this:

Welches Ladekabel brauche ich für mein Elektroauto?

The specified amps are relatively easy to understand, in this case it is a 20 A cable. The number of phases results from the 1P+N+E, it is 1-phase. (2P -> 2-phase; 3P -> 3-phase)

You can also look up how many phases a cable has in the plug itself. Depending on whether the row with L2 and L3 has pins or not:

Welches Ladekabel brauche ich für mein Elektroauto?

In this case, the row with L2 and L3 on the left connector has no pins. So on the left we have a 1-phase plug. The plug in the middle has pins all over it, it's 3-phase. And if you look closely at the car or the cable, you will notice that the CP pin is shorter than the PP pin. This is quite normal. More about this in my FAQ: Why is the pin at the top right shorter?

And if you still haven't had enough, you can also learn how the type 2 protocol works in the following article:

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