Choosing which electric vehicle is right for you can be a tough decision, but the decision over which charger to go for? That’s a whole new can of worms.
It’s fair to say that after having been through a lengthy, sometimes complicated – and, to some consumers, exhausting – process of choosing a new vehicle, not many act that passionately over their choice of electric vehicle charger. We all thought a charger just needed to be conveniently located and have the ability to turn on and off when you asked it to. But things are about to change for these humble plastic boxes. If 2021 was the year we saw EVs go mainstream, I’d propose that 2022 is the year that the residential EV charger receives some limelight of its own.
The first change will occur relatively early in the year – the Government's long-standing incentives to fit residential chargers will cease for most consumers and the price of a charger will increase by £350 on 1 April 2022. The cost of installation has been so heavily subsidised it’s almost been a default that, wherever possible, consumers fit an electric wall charger when they take delivery of their battery electric vehicle.
Many consumers, especially as we go down the product lifecycle, will now seek to finance the hardware and installation and potentially bundle it with the package for their vehicle. Alternatively, to reduce costs, they may seek different product options. For instance, many markets in Europe opted for different subsidies leading to consumers fitting a 7kW commando/schuko socket to their garages – and then running a cable to charge their vehicle. Operational fleets that may consider staff turnover too big an issue to pay for home chargers – or most cost-conscious customers in the UK – may seek similar options. Commando sockets are relatively cheap to fit and cables aren’t redundant, they can move from vehicle-to-vehicle or employee-to-employee.
If 2021 was the year we saw EVs go mainstream, 2022 is the year the residential EV charger receives some limelight of its own
However, the biggest change occurs in June 2022 when residential chargers need to be dynamically integrated to the energy ecosystem. The Government passed legislation in late 2021, stating chargers need to be able to send and receive signals from the grid and have the capacity to respond to them, referring to this concept as ‘demand-side response’ (DSR).
It acknowledges and requires EV charging hardware to play an active role in helping balance the grid, with the charger able to turn off momentarily if grid demand exceeds supply. For example, chargers will need to have an 1,800 second random start delay on each charging session. This delay has been introduced to prevent the issue that when we all plug our cars in at 6pm when we return home, we’re not going to break the grid. From an energy management perspective, it means if there’s a surge in demand on the electricity grid there’s less need to switch on a fossil-fuel power plant. The idea is to shift energy demand to a different time.
DSR is a great enabler for the customers to charge their vehicle in much more CO₂ -considerate way. Chargers will understand driver charging preferences – and when integrated with smart dynamic tariffs, they will respond to price signals to charge the vehicle at the cheapest time.
The cost of energy and the CO₂ density of energy are highly correlated, so consumers will save money and save CO₂ at the same time.
ELECTRIC CHARGER EVOLUTIONS
As we go through the year, consumers' understanding of energy technology hardware will evolve and we’ll see greater product differentiation. It will stimulate some new behaviour, promoting – where possible – that our vehicles are plugged in to charge for longer. The longer it’s charged, the more energy demand can be shifted to when it’s best for the grid. The humble piece of plastic is no longer – it’s suddenly a very smart piece of kit!
Peter McDonald is mobility director at Ohme. Prior to his current role, he spent two decades working for automotive manufacturers including Nissan, SEAT and the wider Volkswagen Group.