Put customers in driving seat of EV charging scheme designs, says Citizens Advice

The consumer body says companies should guarantee minimum levels of savings or income

Pathway to COP26 report

The electric vehicle (EV) and energy sector are being urged to put consumers at the heart of the design process as new methods of EV charging are being developed.

The call comes from Citizens Advice, which has set out recommendations based on its research examining drivers’ attitudes towards new “smart” charging schemes.

It says companies should offer consumers financial guarantees which seek to limit the money they put at risk and/or guarantee a minimum level of savings or income, along with guarantees on aspects such as battery health and allow customers to switch schemes, complain and keep track of their data easily.

The consumer body suggests schemes should be easy to understand and quick to set up, accessible for people who are not digitally savvy and available for those who live in areas with weak mobile or internet signals.

It adds the EV charging initiatives should also be tailored to fit in with different customer needs, in particular, people with mobility issues, parents of young children and those living in remote areas with restricted access to public transport or public charging as well as small businesses that may not have the time and resources to actively engage in smart charging compared to large companies.

While sales of EVs have been increasing, which is good news for the environment and the decarbonisation of transport, it is a big challenge for the electricity grid.

Citizens Advice believes the next few years present an “important opportunity” to develop smart charging schemes for EVs which are convenient and fair for drivers but don’t put pressure on the power grid.

These can offer drivers lower tariffs in return for moving their charging to times of the day when there is less demand on the grid and electricity is cheaper while other ideas could see EVs selling power back to the grid.

The charity believes many of these schemes are in their infancy and a long way from being implemented on a wide scale – it warns if they are to work, consumers’ different travel needs and lifestyles should be taken into account from the beginning and consumers should remain a “top priority” as they develop these new technologies.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said: “The electric vehicle market is small but rapidly expanding. It’s also a vital part of the decarbonisation of the whole transport system. If the evolution of new charging systems is to be a success, drivers need to be involved and listened to from the start.

“The potential risks and benefits can be hard for people to assess – particularly if, like most of us, they don’t own or have access to an electric vehicle. It’s also really important that the needs of people with limited budgets or mobility issues are considered and these groups are not left behind.”

Ofgem’s response

Ofgem said its reforms will help more users charge their EVs and save them and other energy consumers money by offering incentives for charging “at the right time”.

A spokesperson added: “Flexible charging using ‘smart chargers’ will allow more electric vehicles to be charged from the existing grid when energy prices are cheapest, for example when wind and solar power is generating lots of electricity or when there is less demand across the system. This reduces the need for expensive new power stations and extra grid capacity to be built to meet peak demand.

“Ofgem will examine Citizens Advice’s recommendations in detail and will continue to work with them, other stakeholders and the government to ensure the electric vehicle revolution in Britain benefits as many consumers as possible.”

Technologies for energy users that can help them reduce costs and emissions will be among those on display at The Energy Solutions Show (TESS)  on June 5th at Millennium Point, Birmingham.

If you wish to register as a delegate for free, you can send an e-mail here or to showcase your technology, you can get in touch here.

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