You are not alone in being confused! Let us try and make the technology options clearer...
The most common method of EV charging uses a standard single-phase 13 A AC (alternating current) supply. With an available power rating of 3 kW, ‘slow’ charging as it is sometimes known is ideally suited for overnight (off-peak) charging.
Nearly all electric models can be slow charged with vehicles being supplied with a charging cable with the appropriate connector which in most cases will be a standard 3-pin plug (BS 1363) at the charging point end and a ‘gun-shaped’ Type 1 (SAE J1772) or Type 2 (Mennekes) plug for connection to the vehicle.
While any 13 A socket can in principle be used, it is advisable that a qualified electrician conducts a house survey to ensure that the wiring safety supports the relatively long periods of charging.
‘Fast’ AC charging reduces charge times to around half that of a slow charge by at least doubling the current to around 32 A (7 kW). Higher power rates of up to 22 kW (three-phase) are also available. Most commercial and a many public on-street chargers use this technology.
While not all electric vehicles are able to accept a fast charge at 32 A, most can be connected to them (with the right connector) and will draw less than 32 A depending on their capability. In most cases, the connector cable used incorporates a Type 2 (Mennekes) plug (IEC 62196) at the charging point end and a ‘gun-shaped’ Type 1 (SAE J1772) or Type 2 (Mennekes) plug for connection to the vehicle.
Faster still are ‘rapid’ chargers which supply an electric vehicle directly with either a direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC) from a dedicated charging unit using a specialised plug socket (usually CHAdeMO or CCS for DC and Type 2 Mennekes for AC). Typically rated at 50 kW for DC units (400V /125A), or 43 kW for AC chargers, rapid charging an electric vehicle to 80% typically takes less than half an hour.
As with fast charging, not all electric vehicles can use a rapid charger. Examples that do include the Nissan LEAF which has a charging socket for slow and rapid charging units. Unlike slow and fast chargers, the rapid units use dedicated CHAdeMO, CCS or Type 2 (Mennekes) connector that are required to carry the very high current. At least 1,000 rapid charge points are installed in the UK with many more planned for installation in 2015-16.
Before you buy or use an EV, check the type of charging its accepts (‘slow’ also known as Mode 2, ‘fast’ also known as Mode 3, or ‘rapid’ Mode 4). Then check which of the local on-street points match your vehicle and whether you need a particular cable to connect. In most cases the charging network (such as Source West) will be able to supply a suitable connecting cable.
Also, if you are installing a home charge point, the supplier will be able to advise on the correct charger type and which options you should consider so that future EV models will also be able to use the equipment installed.