Customers respond to electric vehicle smart charging

Electric vehicle charging trial

The UK’s largest trial of smart charging incentives found that the majority of electric vehicle drivers on the trial shifted charging to off-peak, reducing demand on the network at the busiest times. The Shift project led by UK Power Networks is partnering with Kaluza, Octopus Energy and ev.energy on the trial involving more than 1,000 domestic customers.

The project demonstrated that smart charging needs to be accessible, simple and trusted if it is to generate widespread participation. It also reinforced that to be successful, smart charging products must be designed around real-world customer behaviour and preferences.

There are 102,000 EVs connected to UK Power Networks’ electricity networks in London, the South East and East of England, a figure that is projected to rise to more than four million by the end of the decade.

Under the trial, customers opted to enrol in different smart charging products that incentivised smart charging at off-peak times. A customer survey revealed that more than 80% of customers on Octopus Go Faster, the tariff designed for the Shift trial, used the reduced tariff rates to run other devices in their homes.

Customers that had selected automated smart charging products had the option of ‘boosting’ their battery charge at all times. The year-long trial revealed this accounted for between six and 30% of energy used for EV charging. The level of boosting varied significantly between individual customers and between trials, suggesting that this is impacted by the type of customer and what smart charging product they were using.

The study also found that as the volume of electric vehicles smart charging grows in a local area, price signals and incentives will need to change to reflect local demand. As a result, networks will need to monitor local network usage and create incentives that encourage the kind of smart charging behaviour that delivers the most value to the network and its whole customer base.

Ian Cameron, head of customer service and innovation at UK Power Networks, says: “Electric vehicles are coming and we have a responsibility to provide the capacity needed to ensure our customers can charge when and where they wish. Smart charging has an important role to play in making sure we get the most efficient use out of our existing infrastructure, and where we do invest it is in the right place at the right time.”

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