Smart devices are becoming a regular fixture in our everyday lives. They help us save time and money and - critically, as energy becomes more expensive than ever - help optimise resources.
We’ve come a long way from the 3-pin chargers: since June 2022, all UK home charge points must have smart functionality. At their most basic, they are internet connected (including nice visual tools in a mobile app) – at their most powerful, smart charging allows you to take advantage of lower energy price tariffs to save money, time and the environment.
This guide dives into everything you need to know about intelligent EV charging. We’ll cover:
- What smart charging is;
- How smart charging will help you save time, money and the environment, and;
- The current options on the market - and the future of smart charging.
** This blog includes paid partnerships. We reinvest our commission in two ways: firstly, by delivering an exclusive discounted offer for loveelectric customers, and secondly, by redirecting any remaining commission into causes that support the health and regeneration of our environment. Click here to learn more about our commitment to people and the planet.
What is smart charging?
Smart charging is the future of charging: the most affordable, green and intelligent way to recharge your EV.
With most people charging their electric cars at home, EV owners want to get the most out of their energy. Indeed, 65% of EV drivers believe energy efficiency is the most critical factor when purchasing an EV charging station.
The primary goal behind smart charging is to optimise energy usage while charging electric cars. ‘Smart’ refers to technology connected to the internet via Bluetooth or wifi, creating links between household tools to optimise our lives. This network is also known as the Internet of Things.
So, what does this mean for you? Smart charging capabilities are a convenient way to charge when electricity demand is lower and there is a lot of renewable energy on the grid. When demand is lower, electricity is cheaper; when there is lots of renewable energy on the grid, the electricity you use is better for the environment.
Of course, you can manually plug and unplug your EV to take advantage of these lower rates – but a smart charger takes care of it for you. Simply plug in, set your preferences and relax.
Some EVs also have inbuilt features to schedule charging at off-peak times, including:
- Tesla Model 3
- Hyundai Kona
- Kia Niro
- MG ZS EV
However, for most current models, you’ll need to install a smart charger to take advantage of these benefits.
Benefits of smart charging
Smart charging is incredibly beneficial for both the driver and the energy market. Indeed, smart charging will play an essential role in the future of a balanced and well-maintained electricity grid. But these benefits aren’t limited to the energy market – smart charging has massive perks for drivers, companies and network operators alike.
Benefits for EV drivers
It’s easy to think that it doesn’t really matter when and where you charge your car. As long as it gets charged, right?
Smart charging is fantastic for drivers for two main reasons: it saves you money, and it’s better for the environment.
Through your smart charging app, you set your preferences for when your car charges, when you need the car to be fully charged, and even during what weather you’d prefer to charge. That means that you can take advantage of lower energy tariffs, choose whether you want your electricity to come off the grid or your pre-installed solar system, and optimise the renewable energy ratio in your car’s battery.
Let’s chat about energy tariffs. Low tariffs = low energy costs. When you choose to delay your charging until low tariffs kick in, you can optimise your charge, reducing the load on your wallet. Utilising a smart charger and an EV-specific energy tariff lets you take advantage of incredibly low 12p/kWh prices.
On the hunt for the right tariff for your new electric car? There are loads of tools out there to help your find the perfect tariff for you.
- Rightcharge’s tariff comparison
- Smart Home Charge's energy comparison tool for EVs
- Love my EV’s EV tariff finder
- Zap-Map’s EV energy tariff tool
- Go Ultra Low’s EV energy tariff tool
Not only does choosing an EV-specific energy tariff help to relieve the stress on your wallet, it also reduces the pressure on our environment. While the grid's ratio of renewable to unrenewable energy is improving month on month as more renewable sources are added, many environmentally-conscious EV owners want to be more in control over the origin of the electricity that powers their car.
The renewable to fossil-fuel-generated electricity ratio on the grid changes daily. And what is the main contributing factor? The weather. When the sun shines, solar stations kick into gear; when it rains, more hydropower flows into the grid; when the wind blows, wind turbines start cranking. As an EV driver, having a smart charging system that prioritises charging on sunny, rainy or windy days above overcast and still days will help you control the total emissions generated by your daily commute.
Of course, the most cost- and environmentally- efficient option is prioritising charging from a pre-installed solar system in your house. Emissions-free and cost-free driving – so long as the sun shines.
Alongside the cost and environmental perks, drivers benefit from a range of other bonuses from smart charging. These include:
- Convenience: Your smart charger handles it all - just plug in and forget
- Charge smarter: Smart chargers optimise charging speeds
- Charge safer: Before charging, smart chargers test the connection between vehicle and device to protect your home’s electrical circuit
- Control: Simply set your preferences and monitor your charge from your smartphone
Benefits to businesses
Smart charging isn’t just great for drivers – it’s also fantastic for businesses.
Businesses that install smart charging at their offices enjoy the same cost- and environmental- benefits as at-home smart charging. But there are a few business-specific benefits, including monitoring EV charging remotely, worry-free billing and control over the business’ electricity consumption.
Benefits to the grid
What happens if every EV starts charging simultaneously, you might ask. With EV numbers increasing year on year, the number of electric cars plugged in and relying on the energy grid at the same time through smart chargers will overload the network – right?
In fact, optimising when you charge your car is not only cheaper but also helps in balancing the stress on the grid. As the number of EV drivers grows, the pressure on the grid to charge all of these cars will increase. Charging electric cars at a period of lower electricity usage – generally at night – can help reduce the pressure on the grid.
Technically known as load shifting, solving this problem is the UK Government's primary goal in their 2021 The Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations. A 2016 report from My Electric Avenue found that one in three distribution networks would not cope with more than 30-70% of the car fleet being electric and charged at home. A smart, interconnected charging network will ensure that all electric cars are fully charged, at the lowest rate to drivers - and at different times from their EV neighbours.
Coming into effect in June 2022, the Smart Charge Points Regulations introduced new requirements, including:
- Data connectivity
- Default off-peak charging
- A random delay at the start and end of the charge
- Additional security
How does smart charging work?
Smart charging really couldn’t be more simple. Once your smart charger is installed, simply set your preferences – minimum charge level, what time your car should be fully charged by, preferred renewable electricity ratio, and the minimum charge level (in case of an emergency). Then simply plug your car in and let the smart charger do the rest.
While you relax and get on with your evening, your smart charger relays your preferences through a centralised cloud-based management platform. The AI then considers your choices and selects the best time to optimise your charging.
That’s right: no more pesky late-night service station trips, just smart charging and stress-free commutes.
In a smart EV charging station, you’ll generally find:
- A charging unit, typically attached to a charging cable
- Ethernet, Wifi or Bluetooth connection, to allow the user to communicate with the charger
- Smartphone app, to communicate the user’s preferences with the charger
Which smart charger is best for me?
So, how can you get your hands on one of these futuristic chargers and take control of your electricity spend and environmental impact?
Here are a couple of our favourite solutions.
Egg’s cracking smart chargers are a fantastic fix for anyone looking for a fuss-free solution so they can focus on enjoying their emissions-free ride. They’ve brought everything we love about smart charging into one tight shell.
On their basic package, you’ll get a fully installed charger. Egg Plus, their premium subscription, gives you access to their smart charging capabilities. Through the Egg Plus smart charging app, drivers set their preferences, plug in and forget – the app handles the rest.
Their chargers work with all electric cars, so you’ll have peace of mind that your car will be ready when you need it.
We also love their flexibility: you can either pay for your smart charger upfront or through monthly payments.
Egg is best for you if:
- You’re looking for a fully-integrated service, including installation, smart charging app and maintenance
- You’d like to pay for the charger in a one-off payment
- You want to sort out payments separately from your salary
We’re not yolking around: we’ve got a fantastic deal for loveelectric drivers! Egg has thrown in their premium Egg Plus service for our drivers at no extra cost. That’s a smart charger, free installation, a smart charging app and loads more for just £24.50 per month. The future is sunny-side up.
There are some things in life that come together and just feel so … right. And Rightcharge really has nailed it with their smart charging bundle: by helping EV drivers find the perfect smart charger and energy tariff for them.
Just like finding your perfect electric car, Rightcharge knows that chargers and energy tariffs aren’t one-size-fits-all. Coupled with their handpicked network of installation companies, you can have your charger installed in less than three weeks and save an average of £360 each year on your EV electric bill.
And for those looking to bump their home’s green credentials, Rightcharge has optimised their chargers for low-carbon energy. Their clever charge point can schedule charging for the early morning when electricity is at its cleanest and cut your carbon footprint by an average of 25%.
Rightcharge is best for you if:
- You’re after complete flexibility and a bespoke service
- You’re looking for both a smart charger and advice on the best energy tariffs to help save you money
- It’s important for you to find the greenest way to charge your car
Best yet? Enquire and order via the link below, and we’ll donate our £20 referral fee to Asthma UK.
What we do with our commission
Transparency is the name of our game, so here’s the small print, upfront and centre! Yes, we do make a commission from our partnership with Egg and a referral fee from Rightcharge. However, our priority is to provide the best options to our drivers so they can loveelectric at the lowest cost and lowest fuss possible.
That’s why we’ve committed to reinvesting our commission. We do this in two different ways:
Firstly, these exclusive discounted offers save our drivers money and stress. Smart chargers are required for every electric car, and there are some costly options. We’ve already done the homework, so you know that you’re getting the most comprehensive and cost-effective charger. With Egg, our drivers save £108 over three years; Rightcharge’s smart charger and tariff combo can save drivers up to £400 per year.
Secondly, we redirect any remaining commission into causes that support the health and regeneration of our planet. We currently support Asthma UK on their Clear Air campaign, and we are excited to launch our new partnership with Ecologi to aid climate action in the near future.
As a B Corp (Pending), giving back is a critical part of our work. Partnerships with companies like Rightcharge and Egg allow us to build upon this positive impact.
What to look out for in a smart EV charger
Like all tech, smart chargers are constantly evolving – so finding a charger that can adapt to these changes is essential.
When researching smart chargers, make sure that it can keep up with evolving software and features. As smart chargers generally connect to the cloud via wifi or plug-in internet, essential updates often install automatically.
It’s also essential that your smart charger is durable enough to last the lifetime of your car. High durability means that you don’t have to buy a new charger every time you want to get new features – helping you reduce waste, keep your charging optimised and streamlined, and giving you the best service possible.
The future of smart charging
We are undergoing a shift in how our energy is produced and used. As we move from centrally generated fossil fuels to distributed but intermittent renewable energy, the pressure on our environment will begin to cede – but it also presents new challenges.
Smart charging signifies a huge step forward in battery and electric car technology, unlocking massive gains not just for electric cars but also for personal and business electricity use and the electric grid as a whole.
And a huge capability unlocked by a smart charging network is Vehicle to Everything (V2X) technology. V2X tech transforms your EV car battery into a portable battery that can power your home and office – or even help balance the electricity grid.
What powers this capability - and one of the most exciting abilities in V2X tech - is bidirectional charging. Smart home chargers symbolise the beginning of bidirectional charging in our homes that will support a fully renewable electricity grid. When the wind stops blowing, and the sun stops shining, a nation with an EV in every garage, driveway or on-street parking presents an opportunity to store excess renewable energy in their batteries. Bidirectional charging – charging an EV when the grid has high renewable energy and using that charge to power your home or office when the grid has low renewable energy – will form a core foundation of our future energy system.
Also known as Vehicle To Grid (V2G), bidirectional charging will see EVs become symbiotic with the power grid. A trial in 2018 by Kaluza, a pioneering UK research and development project on V2G systems, used AI and market signals to charge vehicles at the cheapest and greenest times automatically. Since most cars spend up to 90% of their time parked, a smart charger effectively turns an EV into a mobile electricity storage device to help balance the grid. Kaluza’s research found that EV drivers in the trial could earn as much as £725 yearly simply by plugging their cars in when they were not in use. Extrapolated across the UK, V2G tech could save £3.5bn per year in grid infrastructure reinforcement and electricity storage and generation.
V2G and V2X technology have the potential for real-world impact that benefits both customers and the grid. There’s no doubt that electric cars, coupled with robust smart charging tech, will form the basis of a robust, green electricity grid.
The future of transport is electric. The massive cost and environmental savings that can be made simply by switching to electric are undeniable – and throwing smart charging into the mix can increase these savings while supporting a robust and green electricity grid.
We’re delighted to work with Egg and Rightcharge to provide multiple options to our drivers to access the most up-to-date smart charging points. These partnerships, alongside our unbeatable salary sacrifice offers, help us build momentum in the electric revolution.
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