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Smart electric car chargers on streets could save drivers £600 a year

It hasn’t been the best week for news if you’re an electric car owner, with the Chancellor on Thursday outlining how he will make drivers of zero-emission vehicles pay road tax from 2025.

But while current electric car owners may have to fork out £165 in vehicle excise duty each year by the middle of the decade, some could save hundreds of pounds a year on charging costs thanks to new technology being trialled in the UK.

‘Agile Streets’ is a project targeting residential roads where properties have no off-street parking. It then installs a number of intelligent metered devices that only charge an electric car when it is cheap to do so.

An initial trial of the technology in Britain has just been completed and found it can reduce the cost of charging via the public network by over £600 per annum. 

The UK trial aiming to save electric car drivers hundreds of pounds each year: Smart metered devices could dramatically reduce EV running costs for those without off-street parking

Drivers living in flats and houses without any parking facilities are unable to have an electric vehicle charging device fitted at their home.

This means they can’t take advantage of more affordable domestic electricity, instead having to rely on the pricier public network, which can be over three times more expensive.

This is also something of a postcode lottery, as figures on the councils adding the most and least electric car charging points show. 

However, Agile Streets looks to resolve this issue.

The Government-backed project has seen 100 smart charging points deployed on residential roads at 17 sites across four local authorities – Shropshire, Hackney, Glasgow and East Lothian.

The devices schedule charging to times when energy prices are cheapest, such as overnight when demand is low, or on sunny and windy days when there is an abundance of cheap solar and wind energy being generated. 

One of the groups behind the project Connected Kerb claims peak energy demand could be dramatically reduced with aid of these devices, which can slash electricity usage in busy periods by as much as 240 megawatts – the equivalent to boiling over 1.4million kettles.

The 'Agile Streets' trial targets residential roads where properties have no off-street parking. It then installs a number of devices that only charge an electric car when it is cheap to do so

The ‘Agile Streets’ trial targets residential roads where properties have no off-street parking. It then installs a number of devices that only charge an electric car when it is cheap to do so

The Government-backed projected has seen 100 smart charging points deployed on residential roads at 17 sites across four local authorities ¿ Shropshire, Hackney, Glasgow and East Lothian

The Government-backed projected has seen 100 smart charging points deployed on residential roads at 17 sites across four local authorities – Shropshire, Hackney, Glasgow and East Lothian

The devices schedule charging to times when energy prices are cheapest, such as overnight when demand is low or on sunny and windy days when there is an abundance of cheap solar and wind energy being generated

The devices schedule charging to times when energy prices are cheapest, such as overnight when demand is low or on sunny and windy days when there is an abundance of cheap solar and wind energy being generated

Poor connectivity could ‘hamper EV charging roll out’, study warns

Poor digital connectivity could restrict the success of national electric vehicle charger roll out plans –  and impact the safety of users, according to a report.

Mobile connectivity is vital because most public devices require access via an app on their phone or via a web page where they can pay for their charging session. This means that without a signal, they can’t charge.

Poor mobile signal may also leave users unable to access support if something goes wrong during their charging session, or if they feel unsafe, warns connectivity consultancy, FarrPoint.

A survey of 4G signal coverage at 96 public EV charging locations across Scotland and the North of England found that one in five had just a 50 per cent chance of getting mobile coverage, while only two thirds had mobile coverage from all four mobile operators.

One in 20 locations received no mobile coverage at all, it found.

Steve Smith, head of smart places at FarrPoint, said connectivity is currently being overlooked but improvements are pivotal if infrastructure is to be bolstered in the years up to 2030.

‘This isn’t just a rural issue; many urban charging point locations suffer from the same mobile connectivity problems, and in many cases, the situation is not improving,’ he said.

‘As demand for EV charging increases, charge point operators should consider digital connectivity as being equally important as physical space and available power supply to help avoid future issues.

‘Action must be taken to improve mobile coverage at charge points already in place, or an alternative solution will have to be developed.’

‘This reduces emissions, takes pressure off the grid at peak times and keeps costs low for drivers,’ Connected Kerb said.

‘By using the Agile Streets app and scheduling the time a car needs to be fully charged, drivers will have enough power to drive away when needed.’

Over the course of the six-month trial, 2,451 charging sessions took place and used 51,618kWh of energy. 

These charging sessions were completed by 368 trial participants.

Drivers had the option of a smart charging ‘Eco’ mode at 19p/kWh – which can schedule charging at the lowest-cost times of day – or a ‘boost’ mode at 33p/kWh, which immediately delivers power like a normal non-smart public charger. 

Charging an average 62kW Nissan Leaf from 20 per cent to 100 per cent using Eco mode saves drivers £6.95 per session – equivalent to a 42 per cent cost reduction.

Annually, this worked out at a saving of £604.65 compared to the average cost to use a public device today. 

UK-wide, this could mean a collective saving of over £4.1billion a year by 2030, the report claimed.

Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of Connected Kerb, said: ‘Now is the time to focus our attention on smart charging technologies that can allow those reliant on public charging infrastructure to benefit from cheaper prices when demand for electricity is at its lowest.

‘The deployment of smart charging into public charging – to both reduce consumer costs and minimise the impact of charging on the grid – is ground-breaking. 

‘The Agile Streets trial gives us the opportunity to ensure we get smart charging right, enabling us to take all of the learnings from the trial and get ready to roll out this revolutionary infrastructure.’

Peak energy demand could be dramatically reduced with these devices and slash electricity usage in peak periods by as much as 240 megawatts - the equivalent to boiling  1.4m kettles

Peak energy demand could be dramatically reduced with these devices and slash electricity usage in peak periods by as much as 240 megawatts – the equivalent to boiling  1.4m kettles

VED rule changes will sting EV drivers £169.5m a year

The technology will be welcomed by electric car owners, especially in the face of rising running costs by the middle of the decade.

Jeremy Hunt’s announcement last week in the Autumn Statement that EV drivers will start paying VED in 2025 is expected to hit motorists to the tune of at least £80million a year – and potentially up to £169.5million, according to calculations by Forbes Advisor.

If Britain’s 550,000 fully-electric vehicles are taxed at the same rates as petrol and diesel motors – £165 a year for the standard rate of VED for all models registered after 1 April 2017 – it will cost their owners £89.5million annually.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last week announced that electric cars will be subject to road tax for the first time from 2025

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last week announced that electric cars will be subject to road tax for the first time from 2025

The VED supplement of £355 for all cars over £40,000 – which is paid for five years on top of the standard rate – will also raise significant funds for Treasury coffers, while hammering the bank balances of motorists making the transition to greener vehicles.

Forbes Advisor’s analysis found there are at least 226,000 fully-electric cars on the road with a list price greater than £40,000 – equivalent to more than £80million per year in the VED premium tax, or over £400million when calculated over the five-year charge period. 

Combined with road tax at the highest £165 charge, that’s a potential £169.5million annual additional cost to owners of fully-electric vehicles in the UK.

Kevin Pratt, car insurance spokesperson at Forbes Advisor, said: ‘Widening the VED net to include electric vehicles is a logical move for an administration hungry for revenue, even if it will come as a shock to affected drivers.’

However, he caveats: ‘Hitting vehicles already on the road – indeed, those bought since 2017 – is a surprising move. It remains to be seen whether recent upward trends in EV sales will continue now that buyers know the full whack of road tax is coming down the track.’

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