Category - Ev Chargers
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Paul Holdsworth, Engineer

31 Jan : Updated 28 Feb ● 7 min read

Tethered vs untethered EV chargers: what's the difference & which is best?

If you're an electric car owner or are thinking of becoming one, you'll most likely be considering installing an EV charger at your home. 

Home charging is much more convenient than relying on public charging points, but it can be hard to decide which type of charger to choose.

There are a wide variety of home chargers available depending on what size, style or shape you prefer. But, before you consider any of this, you'll need to decide if you want to install a tethered or untethered charger.

They both fulfil the same purpose of charging your car, but there are different pros and cons to each type of charger.

Here at BOXT, we've laid out a detailed guide on the two different types of home EV chargers to help you make an informed decision about which one is best for you.

Tethered vs untethered EV charger: what's the difference?

Essentially, the main difference between tethered and untethered EV chargers is the charging cable. Whereas tethered chargers have a fixed cable attached that can't be removed, untethered chargers have a detachable cable.

Tethered EV charger overview

Most electric car owners choose to buy tethered chargers, and they're the most common type of home EV charger that you'll see. They do have some benefits when compared to untethered chargers, but also several drawbacks.

The tethered charger is probably the most convenient of the two options as it requires minimal effort when charging your electric car.

You simply unravel the cable from the charging unit and insert it into the charging point of your vehicle. It's similar to the way you would fill up the tank of a vehicle at a petrol pump. The charging cable is also included in the overall price of the charging unit.

As the charging cable is permanently attached to the charging unit, it means that you'll be limited to the length of cable that the manufacturer provides.

Most manufacturers provide 5-metre cables as standard, but they can vary between 2-10 metres. So, before buying a tethered charger, it's important to check what length of cable you'll be getting. If you require a longer cable, some providers will allow you to upgrade at an extra cost.

One of the more restrictive elements of a tethered unit is that the attached charging cable will have only one of two connection types, Type 1 or Type 2. Type 2 is now the standard connection type for all new electric vehicles, and it's only older EVs, such as the Citroen C-Zero, that still use the Type 1.

This is something to bear in mind if you're purchasing a tethered EV charger, as you'll need to make sure you choose the correct charging type for your vehicle.

Remember that if you have an older electric car but you're planning to buy a new one in the future, then you would have to change your Type 1 charging unit for a Type 2.

Tethered charger pros:

  • The tethered cable will be included in the overall price of the unit.
  • Tethered EV chargers are convenient as you simply uncoil the attached cable and plug it into your vehicle.
  • The cable is permanently attached, meaning it is much less likely to be stolen than an untethered cable.

Tethered charger cons:

  • You'll be limited to the length of cable supplied by the manufacturer. If you need a charging cable with more length, this will come at an extra cost.
  • A tethered charger is restricted to either Type 1 or Type 2 charging connections.

Untethered EV charger overview

An untethered EV charger doesn't have a charging cable permanently attached to it, and provides greater flexibility than a tethered charger. Some electric cars come with their own charging cable, but most of the time, you'll need to buy a charging cable separately when you purchase an untethered unit.

As the cable is detachable, you can take it with you when you travel. This means you can use other public EV chargers whilst you're out on the road, as long as they have the right connection type for your electric car.

Also, if any visitors to your home need to charge their electric car, they can simply plug in their own charging cable to your home EV charger.

Although they're more flexible, they are also less convenient than tethered chargers, as each time you charge, you'll have to plug one end of the cable into the EV charging unit and the other end into your vehicle. You'll also have to disconnect each end of the cable when you've finished charging.

One of the big differences between tethered and untethered chargers is that untethered charging units are more future-proof. If, at some point, you need a longer cable or a different type of charging connection, you can replace the cable without having to pay for a whole new charging unit.

Another benefit of an untethered charger is that it can often present a more pleasing aesthetic than a tethered EV charger. When it's not in use, you can untether the cable from the socket and store it somewhere out of the way.

This is ideal if you want to avoid having any cables hanging down from the side of your home. All that will be visible when the cable is stored away is the EV charger, which can be quite discreet.

There are tethered chargers available that come equipped with cable holders so that the charging cable can be stored neatly away when not in use. This is not standard, though, and often these tethered chargers are more expensive than the more basic units.

If you're concerned with how your unit will look once it's installed in your home, it's usually best to opt for an untethered EV charger.

Untethered charger pros:

  • If you need a different connection type or a longer cable, you can buy a new cable without having to pay to replace the entire charging unit.
  • The untethered cable can be stored away so that the unit looks tidier.
  • It gives you more flexibility as you can take the untethered charging cable with you when you travel.

Untethered charger cons:

  • Usually, the cable must be bought separately from the untethered charger.
  • You have to attach the cable before charging and detach it after charging, meaning it is less convenient than a tethered charger.
  • Depending on where you store the cable when it's detached, you may have to clean it regularly to avoid bringing any dirt inside.
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Which is more expensive, tethered or untethered?

One of the main considerations electric vehicle owners have when deciding whether to choose a tethered or untethered charger is which one will be more cost-efficient.

Tethered chargers tend to be more expensive because the cost of the unit includes the price of the cable. Untethered chargers are usually less expensive to buy at first because you are only paying for the unit itself.

However, when you factor in the cost of buying the cable separately, the price difference may not be very much in the end.

If you have ordered an electric vehicle, make sure that you check whether it will come with its own charging cable. If this is the case, then you'll only need to pay for the unit itself, unless you want to buy a spare cable.

Tethered or untethered: which is more secure?

As the cable for a tethered charger is permanently attached to the unit, it can't be removed, providing good theft protection. The only way to remove the cable would be to sever it or to completely remove the unit from the wall, which in both cases would make the charger unusable.

With untethered chargers, the cable can be detached and so is at a higher risk of theft. Many untethered chargers come with technology that provides added security, such as pin protection or cable locking. But, the best way to keep the cable safe is to detach it and store it out of sight when not in use.

Final thoughts

Both untethered and tethered chargers have benefits and costs that you need to carefully consider when deciding which type of unit to have installed at your home.

It's not the easiest decision to make, but it's best to get the most information possible beforehand, as if you choose one that's not right for you, then replacing it can be pretty costly.

Whilst tethered units tend to be more convenient for home charging, untethered units provide much more flexibility, and their detachable cables are not just limited to being used at home.

Ultimately, the charger that will suit you best depends on your own needs and how you intend to use it.

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