Smart EV charging: How it works and why you need a smart EV charger
17 November 2020 | Aimee Tweedale
‘Smart charging’ is, of course, the smartest way to charge your electric vehicle (or EV). The idea is simple: unlike conventional (or ‘dumb’) chargers, smart chargers can communicate with each other, your car, and the grid. The result? A cheaper, more energy-efficient and sustainable way to top up your car.
If you’re an EV driver – or thinking of becoming one on your journey to zero carbon – read on to find out all you need to know about smart EV chargers.
What is a smart EV charger?
In technology-speak, ‘smart’ can mean a few different things. But broadly, it refers to automation, or your device’s ability to connect to other devices1. And when it comes to charging your electric car, an ethernet-connected or Wifi EV charger allows your charger to communicate with your car, the electricity grid, and with the EV charging infrastructure (i.e. other chargers).
What does this mean in practical terms? Basically, every time you plug in your car to charge, the charger sends data to the charging operator.
The operator can then use this data to figure out the best time for your car to charge. This puts less pressure on the grid – and it could work out a lot cheaper for you, too.
How does smart EV charging work?
Smart electric car chargers share their real-time data with a centralised, cloud-based platform. The charging operator then works out how much energy your car needs, and how much is available.
This means that instead of charging as soon as you plug your car in, the brainy charger figures out the best time to start.
How does this work out greener? Because the charging operator looks at factors like how much electricity is being used in your local area, and how many electric vehicles are charging right now, to make sure your car charges at a time when it won’t overload the grid.
A smart charger also saves you money if you’re on a plan like Economy 7. And if you need to make sure your car has a bit of charge so you can travel at short notice, don’t worry: you can use your app to tell the charger to get to work sooner2! Pretty smart, right?
The Top 3 benefits of smart EV charging
1. They’re fast (much quicker than a three-pin plug)
Easily the handiest benefit of a home charging unit is being able to charge your vehicle far faster.
The charging time is generally much shorter because a home charging unit has three times the power of a three-pin plug3.
2. Schedule charging around your life
If your EV home charger is internet-connected, there are a few other cool things you can do with it – like syncing it with your calendar. Simply add your schedule to your smart charger app, and your electric vehicle will always be ready to go when you need it.
3. A greener (and cheaper) way to charge
Thought your electric vehicle couldn't get any greener? Think again! Your charger can be set to power up your EV when it’s greenest to do so (while still making sure it’s fully charged by the time you need it to be). It does this by avoiding charging during peak hours and instead, charging your car when carbon emissions are likely to be at their lowest.
This means you’ll bring down your charging emissions by up to 22%4, making your EV more sustainable than ever.
What parts will my EV charger have?
Your smart home car charger has a few different elements:
- Wallbox: the wall-mounted box that holds the outlet for your charger
- Charging cable: you’ll get this if you have a tethered charger
- Or charging port: if you have an untethered charger, this is where you plug in to charge up
Your smart EV charger will also be linked to your home’s smart meter, helping you to monitor your entire home’s energy-efficiency. Find out more about smart meters.
How to pick the best EV charger for you
If you’re looking for an EV smart charger in the UK, there are a lot to choose from. First, decide whether you’d prefer tethered or untethered.
- Tethered chargers let you just park and plug in. Easy!
- Untethered chargers need an extra cable – but they have the added benefit of being future-proof, as they’ll allow you to connect any type of electric car.
Other factors to consider include:
- The cost – typically, a home EV charger is around £8005, and if you have an untethered charger, you should bear in mind the potential cost of having to replace the cable if it gets lost
- What it looks like – the wallbox will be on display in your home after all!
- Whether you want it to be compatible with other types of renewable energy (e.g. if you have solar panels on your roof)
Find out more about the various connector and plug options for charging your EV, with our how-to guide.
And if you're still not sure about the 3 main different charging options for your EV (slow, fast and rapid), check out our blog on the subject.
So now you know. With a super-speedy charger, your car can take you places in a quicker, greener way than before. Ready to get behind the wheel?
Start smart charging with OVO
If you're thinking about buying a home EV charger, then we have good news for you.
We're currently installing smart EV chargers for under £1,000.6 And you don't even have to be an OVO customer!
Sources and references:
4 The Smart Charger will charge your car at times when carbon emissions are likely to be at their lowest (within the charge period that you set). Savings based on Average Grid Carbon Intensity (gCO2/kWh) statistics published by National Grid. The carbon intensity of electricity is a measure of how much Co2 emissions are produced per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed. Savings are based on moving a three-hour charge window from 5pm to 11pm calculated over the period 01/01/2018 to 31/12/2018. Actual carbon intensity varies by hour and day due to changes in electricity demand, low carbon generation (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, biomass) and conventional generation. https://carbon-intensity.github.io/api-definitions/?python#carbon-intensity-api-v2-0-0
6 Prices given include a standard installation. Your survey might show that you need more work than a standard installation. In this case, your quote would include this additional cost.