Smart charging is a safe and convenient way of charging your electric vehicle (EV) at times when demand for electricity is lower, for example at night, or when there is lots of renewable energy on the grid.
Charging during these off-peak times not only reduces costs for EV drivers by using cheaper energy rates, but also helps to prevent unwanted intervals of really high demand for electricity from the grid.
By using an energy tariff that has been designed specifically for EV drivers, you can make the most out of smart charging, as lower tariff rates are applied during off-peak times (eg, overnight). Smart charging could save the average EV driver money overall when compared to traditional charging using a standard EV tariff.
*Update January 2022* We do not currently recommend that you switch to an EV tariff. With the ongoing UK energy crisis, many cheaper EV tariffs have either been increased or removed for new customers. We would therefore recommend you stay with your current provider until the situation changes.
Smart charging requires little effort – when you get home, you just plug your EV into its smart chargepoint. The smart functionality ensures the vehicle is charged by the time set by the user.
EVs produce no emissions when being driven, and the electricity used to charge them is increasingly being generated from renewable sources.
In the future, smart charging will also increasingly be used to charge your EV when renewable energy is more abundant on the grid, such as after windy or sunny periods. This would help reduce carbon emissions further.
Most EV users charge their vehicles when they arrive home from work in the evening, corresponding with peak demand on the grid. Using smart charging, you can still plug in your vehicle when you arrive home from work, but the chargepoint then manages and adjusts the vehicle’s charging to a time when electricity demand is lower.
How it works
There are a wide range of smart chargepoint options available, each with different features and functionalities. Smart charging allows you to set your charging preferences, which may include:
Desired charge level: the battery level you want to charge your vehicle to.
Charge-by time: the time you want the charge level to be completed by.
Minimum charge level: the minimum battery level you don’t want your vehicle to fall below. A vehicle will ensure the minimum battery level set is met before optimising the rest of the charging, so the vehicle will have enough charge in case of an emergency.
The smart chargepoint sends these charging preferences via Wi-Fi, ethernet or 3G/4G/5G to a centralised cloud-based management platform. It will use network signals to monitor and manage charging to optimise energy consumption and ensure all your preferences are met.
It is possible to override smart charging as and when you need to. Simply plug in your EV and opt to immediately charge at that time, instead of waiting for an optimised charging time.
What you’ll need to get the most out of smart charging
While different chargepoints may have different features, this is what you’ll need to get the most out of using a smart chargepoint:
Setting up the basics
You’ll need access to off-street parking to have a home smart chargepoint installed.
Smart chargepoint unit
There are a variety of smart chargepoints on the market, with various features to choose from, depending on your needs.
A smart chargepoint can be tethered (meaning it has a permanent EV cable attached to it), or untethered (meaning it will have a socket that an EV cable can be connected to), depending on your preference. An EV will come with cables to use with an untethered chargepoint.
Wi-Fi or 3G/4G/5G connectivity
A smart chargepoint will typically require either 3G/4G/5G or home Wi-Fi connectivity.
A smart chargepoint may require a mobile phone app to set and change charging preferences, depending on the model you choose.
Smart meters are the next generation of energy meters that are replacing traditional meters across Great Britain. They support EV energy tariffs that save consumers money, by enabling the energy supplier to accurately record when energy was used at the cheaper rates. Get in touch with your energy supplier about arranging an installation at no extra cost.
EV energy tariff
EV energy tariffs have differing rates during day (peak) and night (off-peak) hours. Lower tariffs are typically applied during the night rate, allowing you to charge your vehicle overnight at a lower cost.
Many energy suppliers now offer specific tariffs tailored to EV owners, with differing costs, benefits and off-peak hours available. In the costs section of this page, you will find websites with further information on the offers available.
However, these tariffs apply to all the electricity usage in your home, so consider when and where you use electricity around the house when deciding if an EV energy tariff is right for you.
How to smart charge
Many EVs also have an in-car interface that can be used to schedule smart charging using the steps shown above.
Please note, whenever you are charging your EV, it is recommended that you do not use a standard 3-pin plug socket to charge your vehicle for long periods of time. Please see our FAQs section at the bottom of this page for more information.
The EV chargepoint grant, funded by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), provides funding of up to 75% towards the cost of installing electric vehicle smart chargepoints at domestic properties across the UK. It replaced the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) on 1 April 2022.
It is available for homeowners who live in flats and people living in rental accommodation (flats and single-use properties) who have dedicated off-street parking.
To be eligible for the grant scheme, the applicant must own, lease or have use of a qualifying electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle and they must not have already claimed the grant (either the EV chargepoint grant or the previous EVHS grant) for their EV. A person can only claim one chargepoint per eligible vehicle and household.
The average cost of a smart chargepoint will depend on the type of chargepoint and the features that are important to you. Several comparison sites are available online but do keep in mind that some sites may make a commission from selling you a chargepoint.
Rightcharge is an independent comparison site that allows you to compare smart chargepoints and EV energy tariffs. Following the EVHS grant in April 2022 onwards, Rightcharge expects the cost of a smart chargepoint and installation combined to start at £900 for homeowners, except for apartment blocks and workplaces.
Smart meters are a recommended accessory to be used with smart charging. They support EV energy tariffs that save consumers money.
The customer’s property must have designated, private off-street parking. The grant is not available for those who do not own the parking space or do not have sole legal right to it e.g. rented spaces, spaces shared with other properties. You can find more information on the UK Government website.
It is recommended that you do not use a standard 3-pin plug socket to charge your vehicle for long periods of time. EVs can be charged in this way in emergency scenarios, but using a standard 3-pin socket on a long-term basis could lead to a malfunction of your domestic wiring.
Charging in this way also requires a trailing cable to run from your property to your EV, which creates a trip hazard.
It is recommended that you use either public or home chargepoints designed specifically to charge EVs. This is also more convenient for regular use and will recharge your EV much more safely and quickly.