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Smart charging | Residential

Can you save money with a smart EV charging station?

August 15, 2022 | Wesley van Barlingen and Callum Biggins

With the world collectively switching to more sustainable modes of transport, electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged in recent years as a key part of mobility. Besides EVs being a more environmentally-conscious choice that also offers a superior driving experience, drivers find the convenience of charging your car at home easy to get used to.

It’s not surprising, then, that installing a home charger is a must-do for many EV drivers today. Just like electric cars, these stations are often far more than just a piece of hardware that can charge your vehicle’s battery, and many come with smart charging features that can help you manage your charging session intelligently.

One of the first questions people tend to have about smart chargers is whether they can help reduce costs—especially now as energy prices reach record highs around the world. This article answers that question and dives deeper into how different smart charging features can (or cannot) reduce costs. 

A woman is checking some energy bills while sitting on a sofa in her bright living room.

What is smart EV charging?

Before looking at the ways smart charging can help you reduce your monthly electricity bill, let’s quickly break down what smart charging is. 

Smart charging, also sometimes called intelligent charging, is an umbrella term that refers to a series of technologies enabling connectivity between a charging station, an electric vehicle (EV), and a user. As such, it unlocks access to data and insights about charging, ensuring efficient energy use and avoiding extra costs.

Of course, not every charging station is smart, but the technology is developing rapidly and smart chargers are quickly becoming a standard, driven by their benefits and government regulations mandating them. 

A black electric SUV is charging in a private house driveway on a sunny day.

What are the benefits of smart EV charging?

Smart charging offers many benefits, ranging from increased control over the charging process to greater insights into energy use and the ability to safeguard your home’s electrical circuit and prevent overloads. However, by far the main question EV drivers have is whether smart charging can reduce costs.

The answer is a little more nuanced than a simple yes or no, but generally, depending on how you use it, a smart charger can save costs. This article dives deeper into the different smart charging features and how they can save you money.  

How much electricity does an EV need to be charged?

Before diving into how smart charging can reduce your electricity bill, it’s helpful to understand how much electricity an EV needs in the first place—and what that energy costs. 

Whilst energy use varies greatly between cars, an average EV generally uses about 325 watt-hours (Wh) per mile. Assuming the UK average of 7,400 miles driven per year, or 20 miles a day, an electric car consumes about 6.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day. In comparison, a typical electric shower uses between 7 kW and 10.5 kW. In other words, charging your EV adds less electricity use to your home as taking a single shower. 

Disclaimer: These numbers differ based on individual situations and driving behaviour and are meant to give a ballpark estimate of energy usage and costs. They are not representative of a real-life situation.

A closeup of a residential EVBox Elvi charging station installed on an outer wall. In the background a car is parked.

How much will charging an electric car add to your electricity bill (without smart charging)?

Based on that additional energy consumption, you may be wondering how much extra cost charging an EV would add to your electrical bill. Again, the answer depends greatly on where you live, your utility company and specific tariff, and what time you charge your car.

Still, with an energy consumption of 6.5 kWh per day, or 195 kWh per month, and taking the April to September 2022 UK average electricity price of 28p per kWh, charging an EV would add about £54.60 per month to your electricity bill. 

Disclaimer: These numbers differ based on individual situations and driving behaviour and are meant to give a ballpark estimate of energy usage and costs. They are not representative of a real-life situation.

A closeup of a person paying an electricity bill via smartphone.

Can you reduce your electricity bill with a smart EV charging station?

So, can smart charging reduce your electricity bill? In short, yes. In practice, though, as we have seen above, smart charging is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of functions and concepts, which all work in different ways and have various benefits that allow them to reduce costs. We examine how each feature can save costs in detail below.

How can you save money with smart EV charging?

Some of the features below are already available, whilst some are in development or not yet widely accessible. For the sake of this article, we will look at everything that can help you reduce your electricity bill, today or tomorrow. 

Electricity costs management 

Thanks to the connectivity that underlies any smart charging station, you can gain insightful data about your energy consumption and costs throughout the day. This way, depending on your contract and where you live, you can choose to charge at times that are the most advantageous from a cost perspective. 

Indeed, many utility companies provide differentiated tariffs depending on peaks in electricity demand. Whilst you may pay more for electricity during peak times, you can also take advantage of lower prices during off-peak hours, such as at night. 

You can, of course, still charge during peak times if you need to, but smart charging can allow you to schedule charging at times when electricity demand, and thus costs, are lower.

A closeup of a woman checking some energy bills on a desk with a laptop and a tablet.

Sustainable energy

Smart charging can also allow you to use renewable energy to charge your EV, ensuring the electricity used to power your is always generated sustainably. For example, if you have installed solar panels, you can set your car to charge when your solar energy production is the highest, allowing you to optimise the use of your solar-produced energy.

Even though a typical residential solar installation is unlikely to power your EV completely, it can at least produce some of the electricity required by your vehicle. For instance, an average solar panel may produce around 1 kWh of electricity daily, so ten panels will generate roughly 10 kWh of electricity each day. That is sufficient to provide a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range 26 miles of range, more than the average daily distance driven in the UK.

Combining renewable energy generation with smart charging in this way can considerably lighten your electricity bill, especially given the uncertain and rising energy costs across the world. Of course, using renewable energy to power your EV is not restricted to solar; other renewable sources, such as wind power, can also connect to your smart charger and provide clean electricity.

A sloping roof of a modern house with a series of solar panels which are producing electricity on a sunny day.

Vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) is a technology that presents great future potential. Put simply, it consists of a bidirectional charging flow between an electric vehicle and the power grid. In other words, V2G allows an EV to feed electricity back to the grid from its battery, essentially acting as a small-scale storage solution.

Vehicle-to-grid is shaping up to be an important asset for grid operators worldwide, allowing them to balance peaks in demand and easily store excess renewable energy production. V2G can also contribute to lower costs for both consumers and the grid operator by reducing the amount of electricity that needs to be generated during peaks and, by extension, its cost. EV drivers may also benefit from incentives, such as a discount on electricity price or a lower tariff, for allowing the grid operator to use their vehicle’s battery for V2G. 

Another related feature currently in development is vehicle-to-home, or V2H. Like V2G, it allows an EV to deliver power back into a building, specifically an individual house or apartment. With V2H, you will be able to use your car to directly power your home at certain times, reducing the electricity you’re using from the grid. This way, you can avoid expensive peak tariffs and instead shift your consumption to cheaper off-peak times.

A closeup of a grey electric car charging.

Dynamic load balancing

One of the most useful smart charging features is undoubtedly dynamic load balancing. As its name suggests, dynamic load balancing automatically allocates the available capacity on your electrical circuit to appliances that need it the most. In other words, it automatically adjusts the power drawn by your EV to ensure it doesn’t overload your home’s electrical circuit.

This is particularly important considering the power intensity of charging an EV: a dedicated home charger can deliver between 7.4 kW and 22 kW to an EV. That’s roughly 3 to 10 times more than a typical oven. With that power level, charging an EV can quickly overload an electrical circuit if not managed properly, especially if other appliances are turned on simultaneously.

Dynamic load balancing can avoid blackouts by responsively adjusting your EV’s charging power when many other appliances are in use at your location. Then, as appliances are turned off, dynamic load balancing can increase the charging speed of your EV. Similarly, if you own more than one EV, dynamic load balancing allows you to easily give priority to one car to make sure it is fully charged.

Whilst dynamic load balancing won’t directly affect your monthly electricity bill, it can often save you money by preventing you from having to upgrade your meter box.

No meter box upgrading

In many cases, dynamic load balancing can also spare you from having to upgrade your home’s grid connection.

Because charging an EV adds a significant load to your home’s electrical supply, in many cases, especially if you have a smaller or older meter, you might need to consider upgrading it to prevent overloading.

A smart charging station equipped with dynamic load balancing can intelligently adjust its energy use to ensure it does not draw more power than the meter supports. This way, you can continue using your existing meter, save on expensive installation costs, avoid higher monthly grid connection costs, and any potential permits needed for upgrading your home’s circuitry.

A closeup of a person checking a meter box and the connected electric circuit.

At a time when energy prices are rising at an unprecedented rate, keeping costs under control is a key consideration for many EV drivers. By enabling connectivity between users, chargers, and EVs, smart charging allows easy management of the charging process and ensures you’re taking advantage of the lowest prices to power your car.

If you’re considering installing an EV charger and would like to know more about smart charging, check out our detailed article on the topic.

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