UK Domestic Standard (BS 1363, plus other names)
The UK and related markets (Ireland, some of the Commonwealth, Hong Kong/Singapore etc.*) lucked out: their postwar connector standard is about as meaty, powerful, and safe as a household plug (“Level 1“) gets. The pinout is the same as our standard– hot (“live”), neutral/return, and ground/earth. But BS 1363 is 240 volts, more shock-resistant, and more durable (electrically, mechanically, and thermally).
The safety comes (directly and indirectly) from its large size: the blades are far apart, and far from your fingers when cycling in and out. Note that the outlines above depict a nominal NEMA 5-15 but a minimal BS 1363- the UK standard explicitly keeps your fingers back. There also tends to be a molded grip, to keep your fingers on the body and not near the live elements. After the initial spec, a revision added a plastic sleeve over the base of the prongs. This protects the circuit if the connection has loosened, or in that brief moment when the prongs have made contact but the plug body isn’t fully against the wall.
The blade size makes good contact in their slots, and their heavier construction is more heat-resistant in case of bad contact. I prefer blades to pins for cheap, mass-produced connectors for this reason. Pins require tight tolerances and higher cost to match a blade’s electrical contact. Lengthwise, BS1363 has marginally shorter blades than NEMA 5-15. Combined with their thickness, you’re much less likely to bend something, resulting in bad contact and a smoked socket.
Electrically, the standard is 240 volts (up to 250V), 50 Hertz, and up to 13 Amperes (tested at 14A). The standard acts like our NEMA 6-15, but looks more like TT-30. As the circuit in the wall is already well over 13A, the plug itself has a fuse that enforces a limit. A phone’s cordset would be a couple of amps, but a car would of course use a cable at the full 13A.
When combined with 240V (technically, already Level 2 by North American custom), that’s 3 kilowatts. Overnight, you get 20-30 kilowatt-hours, more than enough to fill a typical EV pack on the market today. At 3 to possibly 5 miles per kWh, that’s 60-100 miles or more in daily range- easily enough for a typical driver. (A Tesla would have a larger pack, but also goes slightly less per kWh, too.) Most drivers on an island, let alone a densely-populated and settled one, should go about their day just fine.
The connector standard is then safer than ours… and pretty much everyone else’s too, while being about as powerful. The drawback is a huger plug than everyone else’s, but car owners can handle that; it’s not enough of a difference to bother most motorcyclists, either.
And yet, the UK has other standards. Just like us, the household plug was never intended for outdoor exposure, vandalism, etc. regardless of power level. The Mennekes connector has since been selected and deployed for public charging. This isn’t really an issue, since double-ended BS 1363/Mennekes cords exist. That’s probably a better system, since an EV enthusiast can leave a 1363-tipped cord at home, with a Mennekes cord in the trunk in case of a need while out and about. (In Europe, the custom is for public facilities to be receptacles only; you provide your own cord.) At home, British Gas is subsidizing more-powerful EVSEs for anyone who goes electric; apparently, they want you to recharge in five hours instead of seven. That, or you’re a boffin with a Tesla, and somehow manage to deplete its huge pack most days.
*Bigger list: UK, Ireland (specified as “IS 401″/”IS 411”), Kenya, Uganda, Malaysia (“MS 589”), Hong Kong and Singapore (“SS 145”), Qatar, Cyprus, Bermuda, and Malta, plus mixed use in countries such as Indonesia, Nigeria, Ghana, Saudi Arabia (“SASO 2203”), Iraq, Oman, Yemen, Macau, etc… but not India, Canada, Australia.
BS 1363 Plus
-Existing standard, deployed around the world
-Already common and reasonably-priced
-Good (~3 kW) power level, good (240) volts
-Lots of size, mass, and safety; long-wearing
-Local fuse built in
-Converts to similar plugs with simple adapter
-240V technically riskier than 120V
-Biggest plug out of all household standards
-Multi-hour charging not fast enough on trips
-Not weatherized and vandal-resistant
-A billion people use 240V every day
-Most other plugs not hardened either
-Plug size hardly a deal-breaker in a car
BS 1363 Ground
There’s a lot to be said for using BS 1363- and possibly it alone if your day is predictable. Many in the UK have nothing else in the garage; it certainly beats NEMA 5-15, and arguably any other household wall standard. Other needs, mainly outside the home, can be met by Mennekes at the installer’s expense.
Other European Domestic Standards
The rest of Europe uses many similar connectors at 240V- most are pins instead of blades, and smaller. (The former British standard was also three pins, before BS 1363 was adopted.) Almost all are based on 19mm pins; the Europlug is 18.5 mm, which is within the flexibility of the materials. Multi-receptacles exist, though if they get too weird I wouldn’t recommend running full current through them.
The big difference is the ground connection and the shape of the outer body, forming a keying system that prevents cross-connecting. The plug bodies are still wider than a typical NEMA 5-15P, for fewer shocks. The German and French CEE 7/x standards, in particular, have a “socket in socket” design, where multiple stepped levels keep foreign bodies out of the connection. In recent years, childproof shutters have been deployed covering new installations.
Despite using 240V instead of 120V, pins instead of blades, and plugs with no fuses, many continental standards go up to 16A. (The exception is Europlug, which is for smaller things, not vehicles.) And yet, there are no dieoffs due to electrocution, or widespread fires, even before shutters.
We in North America thus got the short end of the stick, relatively speaking. The US (and later Canada and Mexico) settled on 110 volts at the dawn of electrification, while technologies were developing and standards were emerging. Europe and other areas, starting later, jumped onboard at 220V or more. Better polymers can easily insulate the difference, negating the safety argument. Our consolation prize, a smaller plug, is hardly a deal, and now encroached upon by IEC60320, USB, etc.