Smart charging is a 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.
There are different levels of smart charging, from basic to most advanced:
If you have a non-smart chargepoint, you can still charge at off-peak times by manually plugging your EV into it during low-cost periods.
Some EVs also have a feature available within them to schedule charging at off-peak times.
A smart chargepoint will have an interface or an app that enables you to set when your EV charges. This could be based on off-peak times or when there is a high amount of renewable energy on the grid.
You can also sign up to an EV energy tariff with energy suppliers, which will allow them to manage smart charging sessions remotely, via a smart chargepoint.
The next evolution of smart charging will involve V2X, which means ‘vehicle-to-everything’. This involves technology that allows the energy stored within an EV battery to be exported and used in your home and other buildings, or even to help to balance the electricity grid.
Benefits of smart charging
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 £300 a year when compared to traditional charging using a standard energy tariff.
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 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
The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), funded by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), provides a 75% contribution towards the cost of providing and installing one chargepoint, up to a maximum of £350 (including VAT) per chargepoint.
To be eligible for the grant scheme, the applicant must own, lease, or have ordered a qualifying vehicle and must have dedicated off-street parking at their property. A person may receive funding for two chargepoints at the same property if they have two qualifying vehicles.
An EVHS-approved installer must apply for the grant on your behalf. You can find a list of EVHS-approved installers here.
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. Smart chargepoints listed on Rightcharge range from £549 to £1,045 per chargepoint using the OZEV grant, including the cost of installation. You can also access many of these chargepoints via the individual chargepoint company’s website.