• World leading research undertaken as part of the Consumers, Vehicles and Energy Integration (CVEI) project funded by the Energy Technologies Institute shows that managed charging (or smart charging) is highly effective at shifting electric vehicle (EV) charging demand away from peak times and is very popular amongst mainstream consumers.
  • Without intervention, the increased uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) could add significantly to existing peak electricity demands and could lead to issues in supply-demand balancing and local network capacity. However, managed charging decreased average charging demand during peak times (4-6pm) by about 70% compared with unmanaged charging.
  • Appetite for managed charging amongst mainstream consumers is very strong, with more than 80% of consumers choosing a managed charging scheme in a post-trial survey.   
  • User-Managed Charging, where consumers choose when to charge against a Time-of-Use tariff, was the most popular option with mainstream consumers, and successfully shifted demand to later in the evening.
  • Supplier-Managed Charging, where consumers were incentivised to give control of the timing of charging to the energy supplier, provided the greatest reduction in peak demand. Experience of Supplier-Managed Charging was also found to make consumers more likely to choose it.

“As we move towards a future of electric transport in a bid to decarbonise, being able to manage the demands that a large volume of EVs will place on the UK’s energy infrastructure is crucial”, explains Dr Neale Kinnear, Head of Behavioural Science at TRL, the global centre for innovation in transport.

“With this latest research into mainstream consumer charging behaviour, we have generated an evidence base showing that managed charging is not only highly effective at shifting demand away from peak times, but it is also more appealing to the majority of mainstream consumers. This is a really positive result and gives us confidence that managed charging is an effective solution that appeals to the mass market.”

Dr George Beard, TRL’s Head of ULEV Consumer Research, and Technical Lead for the CVEI Trials, adds: “These trials represent the world’s first trials of mainstream consumer charging behaviours with both fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. We provided 247 mainstream consumers with experience of using and charging an EV for an eight-week period. This enabled us to capture the most comprehensive dataset on mainstream consumer charging behaviour to date. The charging trials formed a crucial part of the CVEI project and allowed us to address gaps in evidence around mass market user behaviours.”

The Consumer Charging Trials focussed purely on mainstream consumers to gain an understanding of the attitudes and behaviours of the mass market. The results demonstrate how mainstream consumer charging behaviour can best be influenced by using alternative types of managed charging schemes, to enable a smooth transition toward a future of EVs.

Across the trials, two types of managed charging schemes were investigated: User-Managed Charging involved incentivising users to charge at times when electricity demand was low (akin to a Time of Use tariff); Supplier-Managed Charging encouraged users to plug the vehicle in for as long as possible, specifying the charge they required and the time that charge was needed by – and then leave the timing of the charge to be managed by the supplier.

Mainstream consumers found managed charging schemes even more appealing if they offered high annual cost savings, if peak electricity costs were not disproportionately high, and if an override function was provided whereby users could change settings mid-charge. Installing nearby public charge points may also boost the share of consumers willing to choose managed charging, suggesting public charging infrastructure has an important role for increasing consumer confidence. The trial also showed that consumers value the benefits of being able to interact with managed charging via an app on a smartphone or tablet – in particular, consumers made frequent use of the ability to set personal defaults, negating the need for them to input their preferences every time they plugged the vehicle in. This shows that engagement with managed charging can be further encouraged by making it as easy as possible for consumers.

The Consumers, Vehicles and Energy Integration (CVEI) project was commissioned and funded by the Energy Technologies Institute and delivered by a TRL-led consortium which included Baringa Partners, Element Energy, Cenex, EV Connect, the Behavioural Insights Team, EDF Energy and Shell.

The full Consumer Charging Trial report can be viewed here 

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