One of the themes emerging in the EV market is manufacturer partnerships with energy companies. This gives EV buyers the ability to throw in a suitable energy tariff and (more often than not) a home charger at the point of sale. Another big theme is energy companies creating tariffs that are designed specifically for EV owners, enabling them to benefit from lower prices overnight when they'd typically charge their car.
But what do you need to get an EV-specific energy deal? What are the main benefits of switching over – and how much could you save?
Well, it's fairly obvious that a good starting point is to actually have an EV in the first place. Many suppliers simply won't allow you to get EV-specific deals if you don't have one, requiring you to provide details from the V5C registration document to prove that you're the registered keeper. That being said, unless you're running some kind of nefarious nocturnal energy-intense industry in your loft, you don't stand to benefit from making the switch without an EV.
It stands to reason that if you're planning on charging an EV at home each day, you'll not be wanting to do it via a standard three-pin (although it is perfectly viable). As such you'll either have, or want to install a wall box. Typically putting out around 7kW, these will charge an average EV overnight comfortably. Buying outright will cost from £500 without the government's OLEV grant. But if it's your first EV and wall box, you'll likely be eligible for the £500 grant and happily, most wall box makers have a range of chargers that meet the grant criteria for you to choose from.
Many energy suppliers are building wall boxes into their deals (see below) which, depending on your circumstances, is potentially a sweet addition.
The next thing that will be required is a smart meter. All suppliers worth their salt are giving these away for free these days anyway, and with EV tariffs you'll be provided with one. This enables your supplier to understand your energy usage so that you get an accurate bill – important when EV drivers who predominantly charge at home can expect to see their energy use go up by around 50 per cent. It goes with smart meter territory that you'll need to be connected to the web as well...
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of people who have the space to do so are charging at home. There are several reasons for this, but aside from convenience, reliability and security, the bottom line is that it's a helluva lot cheaper than plugging in on-street.
Even on a normal electricity tariff coming in at around 15p/kWh you're looking at £9 to charge a 60kWh battery which is potentially worth around 180 miles, whereas a motorway fast charger might cost you a similar amount for just 100 miles – as well as charging a transaction fee (and the added hassle of signing up to use the network and / or having the right apps on your phone... But that's another story for another time!). On the plus side, some home tariffs come with free subscriptions to public networks, so if you're a regular on-street charger, it's worth shopping around.
In terms of off-peak charging savings, Octopus Energy is offering electricity for as little as 5p/kWh for four hours in the dead of night, which is – as the saying goes – cheap as chips and will make a big difference in your EV charging bills. At an average of around 7p/kWh off-peak, that 60kWh EV could be charged from stone cold dead to 100 per cent for £4.20. Be wary though; the cost for getting cheap off-peak energy can be inflated peak time rates, so that smart meter might come in handy for budgeting day-to-day energy usage. Or just ensure you only boil the kettle or use an electric hob at about 3.00 am...
Regardless of whether you even bother switching to an EV-specific tariff or not, however, you're going to be spending a lot less on moving around in your car than you would filling it with hydrocarbon-based fuel.
It can be, but most suppliers are well aware that the vast majority of EV drivers want their energy to be as non-polluting as their cars. As a result, the energy going into EV tariffs is more often than not bought from renewables. Aside from the smug-factor, it means that if the resident office bore starts banging on about upstream emissions they can be put to rights very quickly.
Green energy suppliers will typically tell you where they buy their power from which will be a mix of sources. For example, OVO energy gets 49 per cent of its electricity from anaerobic digestion, 32 per cent from solar, 18 per cent from wind and one per cent from hydro. It varies though, but it's useful to know – especially if you have strong views on the environmental impact of certain green energy production methods.
As we’ve stated, the choice of energy suppliers that have EV-friendly tariffs is big – and growing. Comparison sites like Utility Saving Expert are your friend when making informed choices.
Below is a selection of just a few of the best suppliers of EV-friendly tariffs, what they offer and links to their pricing. All of these tariffs get their energy from 100 per cent renewable sources.
As we mentioned in our opening gambit, an increasing theme in the industry is manufacturer-supplier energy partnerships. Most recently, Mitsubishi has teamed up with OVO energy to provide customers with an ‘off the shelf’ option to buy an energy tariff alongside their Outlander PHEV. Through the partnership both companies are aiming to help their customers decarbonise their personal transport by buying into a supply derived from renewables.
OVO’s ‘EV Everywhere’ plan provides either a free home charger or subscription to the public POLAR plus network alongside a two-year, 100 per cent green energy supply. Whilst this particular partnership is in its infancy having only just been announced, both companies have further initiatives in the pipeline.
Other partnerships include Ford and Centrica (parent company of British Gas), in which Centrica has essentially become the preferred supplier for Ford’s slowly growing range of PHEVs and eventually the Mach-e. Through this, Ford customers can opt to buy into the Green Drive tariff and have a Centrica engineer install their home charger.
VW has partnered with Ecotricity – a green energy company that reinvests in projects such as new wind farms. Its Green Electricity + Car tariff can be bought by VW owners at the point of sale, or after purchase providing they are the registered keeper. When it comes to charger installation VW – like many other car makers – has partnered with PodPoint. VW is going one step further having created its own energy firm in Germany called Electric Life. The project is in its infancy, but we expect it to grow as the ID. cars gain in popularity.
PSA Group, which consists of Citroen, Peugeot and now Opel/Vauxhall, as well as Renault and Nissan have leveraged their existing partnerships with EDF, which makes sense given the French origins of many of these brands. Nissan is working on Vehicle to Grid (V2G) charging in the UK and Europe with EDF, exploring smart grid technology to develop future infrastructure. In the immediate instance, as well as buying into an EDF supply when buying a Nissan EV it’s actually possible to lease any of the brand’s electric range via EDF itself.
Whilst not a partnership between a manufacturer and energy supplier, the fact that it’s now possible to lease an EV via an energy company is another part of the market that will grow in the coming years. Octopus Energy and Wallbox recently went into partnership to provide an end-to-end, V2G-capable option for consumers. Through this, customers can get themselves a Nissan LEAF, V2G-capable Wallbox home charger and 100 per cent renewable energy tariff from Octopus for £299 per month.
There are further partnerships in the pipeline for home supply in the UK, especially with regards schemes currently available in mainland Europe making their way over here. Vattenfall with Honda and EnBW with Mercedes are just two such partnerships that are providing home supply over there
Choice is a good thing for consumers, but it’s a double-edge sword when it comes to something as intangible and often confusing as energy tariffs. A potential issue for EV buyers is being faced with the option of switching energy supplier at the point of sale. None of the deals available in the above partnerships are mandatory for someone to buy an EV, but it’s not hard to imagine unscrupulous franchised car dealers bending the facts – especially if there are sign-up targets to meet.
More to the point, the trade is still getting to grips with the EV sales process with the likes of MG addressing the inconsistent buying experience that plagues franchised networks.
As consumers, the best thing you can do is know the facts and ensure that you’re armed with all the relevant information before you go into a dealership. Many energy companies outside of those partnered with car manufacturers will deal with home charger installation at least as well as preferred suppliers. In some cases, the chances are the experience will be better as EV-specific energy suppliers have to work hard to compete.
When it comes to choice, the world is your oyster. There is so much competition among suppliers and, with the number of EVs and plug-in vehicles increasing every single month, companies are falling over themselves to compete. Using price comparison sites, shopping around and understanding your own energy use is the best way for you to work out which deal is the best for you in your circumstances. Be aware, though, your charging habits could make an EV-friendly tariff more expensive than a 'normal' energy deal.
When it comes to manufacturer-supplier partnerships, again the best advice is to understand what's on offer. You're under no obligation to sign-up, no matter what the salesperson might say!