No petrol or diesel to pay for, zero road tax, lower servicing costs - driving an electric car undoubtedly lowers the cost of motoring. However, you do need to charge an electric vehicle (EV), and this can add significantly to your home energy bill.
A few years ago, the best way to save money on electric vehicle charging at home was by switching to an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff, and charging overnight when electricity was cheapest. Today many suppliers offer targeted electric vehicle tariffs (EV tariffs), to make it cheaper to top up your battery off-peak.
Why is overnight EV charging cheaper?
Because demand is low overnight, the energy on the grid becomes cheaper overnight. It’s also greener energy. Not because the wind blows more overnight (the top time for wind in the UK is the afternoon), but because low levels of demand means we generally don’t have to switch on more carbon-intensive electricity, like gas or even coal powered generation.
We've put together a list of our top tips for choosing the best EV energy tariff. These will help you choose between tariffs on our complete list of time-of-use and EV tariffs. And if that's got you in the mood for saving money, we're also tagged on a few other tips to help you save money on charging your car.
How to pick the best EV tariffs for you
Don’t be fooled by a cheap off-peak rate. The EV tariff with the lowest rate is not always the cheapest option, as sometimes the standing charge and day rates are higher than you’d normally expect to pay. Depending on your overall energy use, especially if you have electric heating, are shift-working or have more than one electric car, you might even find that a single price tariff could work out to be cheaper.
Split your fuels. Think about splitting your gas and electricity supply (Check first that your chosen utility will allow this, some will only put you on an EV tariff if you take your gas there too).
Be realistic about your home use. The average home uses 1.5 times the electricity that you would use to charge a car doing an average mileage. How much of your home use could you really switch by delaying start times? Energy companies calculate that you’ll shift as much as 66% into the off-peak, but that still leaves you paying for 34% of your use in the pricier day rates.
Check your savings using an EV online comparison site. Power My EV offers a free 10-minute assessment that looks at the whole picture of your car and home. By finding out how you could use energy charging your car and at home a Power My EV comparison will help you find the best tariff overall. It works even if you have solar on your roof or a home battery on your wall.
Use delaying tactics. Find the time delay button on your washing machine and dishwasher. Almost all modern machines have a delay function. Once you find the button, press it repeatedly to increase the time your machine will wait before it starts. Don’t forget to press start when you’ve reached the correct time delay!
Don’t be afraid to go with a non-EV tariff. Some no-frills retailers, like Symbio, offer very cheap Economy 7 rates that might work better for you, especially if you need more than 5 hours to charge overnight.
Ask how green your energy is. Although all the EV tariffs say they are 100% green energy, there is a big difference to how much they are supporting renewables in the UK. If you want to know more, Good Energy have a helpful blog on what it really means to be green. Read more about green energy.
Find an app to help. If you are thinking about a dynamic tariff like Agile, download the Octopus Watch app. This will keep an eye on the prices and tell you the cheapest times to use electricity in the next 24 hours.
Finally, relax! Unlike energy tariffs you might be used to, most of the EV tariffs don’t have exit fees, so you can move if your use changes without too many problems
Plugging your electric car in at home
While it is possible to charge your car from a standard three pin plug, a dedicated home charging point is a preferable solution, with benefits of:
- Faster charging speeds
- Built in safety features
Installing a home charging point has the potential to add to the value of your house too. Home charging points are mandatory for all new build homes as part of the government's Road to Zero strategy.
Right now, there is a grant available from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), which covers 75% of the cost of installing a home charging point. This is a discount of around £500.
Some electric vehicle tariffs come with a discount on installation of a home charge point, so it might be worth looking at the tariffs too. See our full list of EV tariffs for more information.
Other ways to keep your EV charging costs down
Once you have got your EV tariff sorted, is there anything else you can do to lower your charging costs? We’ve got some general tips for how to charge efficiently.
Here are some more top tips for cheaper electric vehicle charging:
Drive in recuperation mode - one of the best things about an EV is the 'one pedal driving', or the ability to send energy back to the battery when you slow down or head down a hill rather than just using the car's brakes.
Avoid the last 20%, in and out - The first and last parts of a battery take the most energy to charge. Avoid running your battery down and set it to stop charging at 80%, unless you need the range for a longer journey.
Use a smart charging app or device - manage your charging the smart way, and keep your battery in the best condition possible.
Take advantage of free charging - Some supermarkets, like Asda and Tesco, and even some car parks still offer free charging for the duration of your stay. Even as more of us drive EVs, these might remain as they are a great way to encourage us to stay a little bit longer anywhere we can spend money.
Keep your battery cool - Most electric vehicles have a lithium battery, which doesn’t like to overheat. Avoid charging in direct sunlight if you can and store your electric car in a car port or garage when it’s really hot, if you have one.
Consider solar on your roof - If your car is at home during the day, installing PV panels or other renewable technology is one of the greenest and cheapest solutions out there. Prices of solar panels have dropped considerably in the last few years, so it's work getting a quote now even if you've ruled it out in the past.
Maintain your vehicle - As for any vehicle, even a small bit of maintenance, like checking your tyre pressures, can make a difference to your range! You'll usually find the recommended pressures on the inside of the car when you open your door.