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Smart EV charging: How it works and why you need a smart EV charger

By Aimee Tweedale Tuesday 17 November 2020

‘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. 

smart ev charger

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 4 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.

4. You’ve got the option of low-cost charging with Economy 7

Economy 7 is a plan that helps you make the most of when energy’s at its cheapest – usually in the middle of the night. And you’ll be happy to know that Economy 7 is available when you sign up to EV Everywhere

This is great for EV owners, because the middle of the night is usually exactly when you’ll want to charge your vehicle. And who doesn’t love the idea of saving money while you sleep?! 

What parts will my EV charger have?

ev smart charger ovo

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)

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 an OVO member and considering an EV smart charger, good news – we’ve got an electrifying offer for you! Pick from two leading smart chargers, and knock £100 off the price (in addition to the OLEV Grant).

Find out more about our smart charger deals here

Thinking about buying an electric car?

Read our guide to the running costs of electric vehicles, and find out more about how much it is to buy, run, and charge an electric car

And if you're interested in powering your EV, at OVO we offer the EV Everywhere tariff, which includes:

  • Low-cost overnight charging with Economy 7

  • 2 years of fixed energy prices to protect members from energy price hikes

  • Free Polar Plus network membership (including free charging at 80% of their 100% renewable energy charging stations)

  • 100% renewable energy9 at home

  • A tree planted every year for every member10

This tariff means members use 100% renewable energy both at home and on the go. It also means that simply by joining OVO, you can cut your carbon footprint at home by about one tonne a year. 

If you'd like to find out more about the costs of charging your EV at home, at work or on the go, check out our handy guide. 

Switch to OVO’s EV Everywhere tariff today, and start saving while you sleep

Get a quote

 

Sources and references:

1 https://medium.com/all-technology-feeds/smart-connected-and-iot-based-devices-whats-the-difference-36fc1bdc36b2

2 https://www.greencharge2020.eu/news/smart-charging-system-electric-vehicles/

3 https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/know-how/electric-car-charging-why-is-it-so-complicated/

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

https://www.drive-electric.co.uk/how-much-does-it-cost-to-get-an-electric-charger-installed-at-home/ 

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