Electric vehicle energy tariffs

Electric vehicle energy tariffs

What are they and how do they work?

With 250,000+ electric vehicles on UK roads, and many being bought every day, more and more energy suppliers have started offering tariffs aimed at electric vehicle owners. But what are they, how are they different, and are they worth it?

Most EV tariffs have been pulled due to the energy crisis

With the energy market in crisis, providers have pulled their cheap deals, and many have stopped offering electric vehicle (EV) tariffs. Those that do still offer them have hiked rates massively, so for most they're not worth it at the moment. As a result, we have taken our analysis of all the different EV tariffs out of this guide for now (apart from one Octopus tariff that could be decent for existing customers), but hopefully our info on how they work is still useful. We'll add full analysis of all the tariffs when it becomes worth considering switching to an EV tariff again.

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This is the first incarnation of this guide. If you've any feedback or tips you think we should add, please let us know in the Electric vehicles energy tariffs forum thread.

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What are electric vehicle energy tariffs?

As the name suggests, these are energy tariffs aimed at owners of electric vehicles (EVs) that use their home electricity to charge their car. Yet for the most part, this is just marketing as many firms don't require you to prove you have an EV.

There are generally two types of EV tariffs:

  • Two-rate tariffs, that offer cheaper electricity overnight. The most common, and typically the cheapest type of EV tariff, offers two different electricity rates depending on the time of day, with much lower rates at night. This means you can charge your car – or run your dishwasher, washing machine etc (there are often no stipulations on what you can use the cut-price electricity for) – very cheaply overnight.

    Before the energy crisis hit, if you made full use of the cheap overnight rate, the best two-rate deals generally worked out cheaper than the cheapest regular energy deals – but right now, for most, they're not worth it.  

  • Single-rate tariffs, where you pay the same rate throughout the day, but it's discounted if you have an EV. The other type of EV tariff works the same way as regular deals, where you pay a flat rate, but it'll be a special price if you've an EV, or you'll get extras such as bill credit.

Six electric vehicle energy tariff need-to-knows

Energy tariffs for EVs are a bit more complicated than your standard gas and electricity deal, so before we go through the tariffs, here are some tips to help you navigate the market...

  • It's difficult to say exactly how much more electricity you'd use if you start charging your EV at home – it all depends on the size of your car's battery, how often you use it, and how much you use public charge points.

    However, as an example, charging a Nissan Leaf from empty to full at home would use 36 kilowatt hours (the unit electricity is measured in). So say you need a full charge each week – that'll get you about 160 miles – it would add 1,924kWh per year to your bill. Using this example, depending on your tariff it would cost an extra:

    • About £8 per week or £400 a year on a price-capped regular tariff. Based on average rates for a standard variable tariff at the max allowed under the current price cap. 

    For reference, when we were regularly monitoring EV tariffs when they were more widely available and competitive, before the energy crisis hit, the cheapest two-rate EV tariffs would cost about £2 per week or £100 a year if you only charged your car during the cheaper off-peak overnight hours. While you might still find some EV tariffs taking on new customers offering similar rates, as daytime peak rates have rocketed well above the price cap, we wouldn't recommend them right now.

    You won't be forking out for expensive petrol or diesel, which should more than offset any increase in your energy bill

    Electric cars are generally much cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars – and by far the biggest savings you can make will come from the fuel.

    Using the Nissan Leaf example above – that's a mileage of just over 8,000 miles a year from about £400/year. That would cost well over £1,000 for petrol or diesel.

    Don't forget there are public charge points for your EV, so you won't always need to charge at home

    This guide is all about EV tariffs for people charging their car at home, yet there are 10,000s of public electric car charging points for when you need a top-up when you're out and about.

    Some are free, but many require you to pay, either via a subscription to the provider's charging network, or pay as you go.

    We're currently digging into the details of all things EV, including charging while on the go, and we'll let you know when we have more info on how to find public charging points and the cheapest way to do it.

  • Unfortunately, it's not easy to compare EV energy tariffs. Many of them are complex, offering electricity rates that vary throughout the day, or are in what's known as a 'beta' phase, meaning the supplier is testing out the tariff, so it's not ready for the open market.

    All this means you won't find all EV tariffs on price comparison websites – including our Cheap Energy Club. This means you have to go direct to get a quote or to compare rates and switch, making it much harder to know which tariff is best when it comes to charging your car.

    For info on how to compare, see how to find your cheapest EV tariff.

  • Some EV tariffs are only available to existing customers of the supplier. That means if you're not already a customer, to get the tariff you'll need to switch to one of the supplier's regular energy tariffs, then switch to the EV tariff.

    This is usually the case for two-rate EV tariffs – where there are cheaper rates overnight, and higher rates during the day.

    Suppliers do this as they'll need to install a smart meter if you don't have one or, if you do have one already, make sure they can fully connect to it (more on that below).

    Just make sure your interim tariff is a good one, as it could take months before you can move on to the EV tariff. Use our Cheap Energy Club to compare – but if the deal you go for has exit fees, check with the provider that you'll be able to move to the EV tariff penalty-free.

  • To get an EV energy tariff, you'll need a smart meter. Generally, this is needed so the supplier can track your usage throughout the day, allowing it to offer cheaper rates during off-peak hours.

    The supplier also has to be able to pick up the meter's signal – so if you have an older smart meter that goes 'dumb' when switching, you may need to get a new one installed. See our Smart meters guide for more info.

    If you don't have a smart meter, to get on an EV tariff you'll usually have to switch to another of the supplier's tariffs first, while you wait for an appointment to have them installed. And even if you do have one already, you'll still need to sign up to another of its tariffs first, so the firm can check if it can connect to your smart meter (and arrange a replacement meter if it can't).

    Can't get a smart meter? You can still switch and save

    Unfortunately, some will find that they can't get a smart meter just yet. This is usually down to technical issues, where for whatever reason the smart meter signal can't be picked up by the supplier in your area.

    If this happens to you, it means you might not be able to access deals specifically aimed at EV owners.

    While you may not be able to get cheap overnight rates, it's still worth checking if you can save by switching to a regular single-rate tariff – you can use our Cheap Energy Club to do a full comparison or, if you find choosing confusing, use our Pick Me A Tariff tools and we'll help pick you the right deal.

  • Some of the cheapest EV energy tariffs we found are electricity-only. This means that if your home also has gas, you'll need to find a separate tariff for it.

    While these suppliers will usually have other tariffs you can switch your gas to, so your electricity and gas supply is with the same provider, this isn't always the cheapest option.

    You can do a gas-only full-market comparison via our Cheap Energy Club to find your cheapest. There are plenty of cheap gas-only tariffs and suppliers, the only drawback is having to deal with two suppliers instead of one.

    However, some firms do offer dual-fuel EV tariffs, letting you switch both your gas and electricity. But remember, the main benefit of EV tariffs is the cheap rates overnight, which you won't get with your gas supply.

    So even if it does offer a dual-fuel tariff, it may still be worth checking you're not overpaying on your gas, and then opting to switch to two different suppliers.

  • Charging your EV at home can take hours, especially without the proper equipment. According to the RAC, charging a typical 40kWh EV battery from empty could take as long as 17 hours using a standard household three-pin socket.

    What's more, if you've gone for a two-rate tariff, cheaper overnight rates for four or five hours won't really help – if takes as long as 17 hours to actually charge your car.

    So if you can afford it and have the space, it's a good idea to get a dedicated wall-mounted charging point for your vehicle – these gadgets can charge your car around three times faster than a standard plug.

    While the average retail cost is around £800, in reality you'll pay far less, as under the Government's electric vehicle homecharge scheme, it'll pay 75% towards the cost of a charge point, up to a maximum of £350.

    To get it, you'll need an installer that's approved under the grant – and they'll simply apply on your behalf.

How to find your cheapest tariff – you'll usually have to do a manual comparison

Most electric vehicle tariffs aren't cheap at the moment, and there are very few still available (we've analysis of one potentially decent one below for Octopus customers), with many providers pulling or hiking their EV tariffs due to the energy crisis.  

That means for most right now, it's likely not worth switching, so there may not be much point in comparing, but we've info on how to do it for when the deals return, as EV tariffs aren't on comparison sites.

Two-rate tariffs are generally the cheapest EV tariffs, but they're trickier to compare

Here's a rough way of working it out:

  • Find out how much your EV needs. Work out how much electricity you'll need to charge your car for the mileage you'll likely do (check car's instruction manual if don't already have an EV)

  • Work out how much it'd be on the EV tariff.
    - Get overnight rates of the EV tariff and multiply that by the amount you need to charge car (we're assuming here you only charge off-peak, if not, adjust your maths).
    - Get peak day rates for the EV tariff to work out a cost for your normal electricity use (you'll see that on an old bill – deduct your car use if you've got one already)
    - Add costs for normal electricity use and EV charging together (if you have gas too, you'll need to add that as well in a similar way - you can do a gas-only comparison if the EV tariff doesn't offer gas).

  • Work out how much it'll be on a regular tariff.  Go into Cheap Energy Club and put in your total use in (including EV use) and you'll see an annual cost based on your current tariff (and cheapest other regular tariffs).

  • Then compare the total cost for an EV tariff versus a regular tariff. Do the maths to work out what is cheapest (remember to factor in gas if needed).

Single-rate tariffs are generally pricier, but are easier to compare

Find out how much your EV needs as above and add that to your usual use (if you don't already have an EV), then get an annual quote of the price directly from the EV tariff supplier. Simply make a note of that quote, then do a normal full-market comparison to see how it compares to regular deals. 

There's one EV tariff that could still be decent if you use it perfectly, but it's only really worth it for existing Octopus customers

While most EV tariffs have either been pulled or the higher daytime prices have been hiked to well over the price cap, there is one electricity-only tariff – Octopus Energy's Octopus Go – that could work out cheaper than a price-capped tariff for some EV owners, but it's only really worth it for existing customers, and you need to make full use of the cheap night-time rate. 

  • Octopus Go can work out cheaper for some, if used correctly. The key here is to make full use of the cheap rates it offers overnight. 

    The tariffs charges just five pence per kilowatt (kWh) everyday between 00.30am and 04.30 – massively cheaper than anything else on the market right now. Yet at all other times of the day, the rates are are significantly higher than than standard price-capped tariffs, and there's nothing cheaper than these at the moment. 

    So it's all about when you use it. For example, based on a household's typical electricity use, plus enough electricity to charge a Nissan Leaf from empty to full once a week (about 160 miles), here's how when you charge can make a huge difference:
     

    • If you only charge your car when the rates are cheap, you can save £200+/yr against the price cap. 

    • If you charge your car half the time at night, and half during the day, savings are just £50/yr 

    • If you only charge during the day, and don't use the cheap rates, it's £130/yr more expensive.

    This assumes that you're only charging your car when the rates are cheap, and nothing else. If you can shift more of your electricity use to when it's cheap, you could save even more. And on the flip side, if you use more than an average amount of electricity during the expensive peak hours and don't need to charge your car much at all, you're likely to be worse off. 

  • Octopus Go is only available to existing customers with smart meters. If you're already with them, it's easy – simply asked to be moved over and it should happen immediately, or as soon as you get smart meters installed. 

    But if you want this tariff and you're not already with Octopus, you'll need to switch to one of its other tariffs first. 

    Due to the energy crisis, Octopus Energy, like many other suppliers, has no cheap deals, and doesn't allow new customers to switch to its price-capped tariff. Its cheapest available deal is currently over £450/yr more expensive than the standard variable tariffs.  

    That means paying massively over the odds while you wait for it install smart meters, or connect to your existing ones. Octopus says they'll try to install them within a few weeks, but it depends massively on where you live and how many they can install in your area, so there is a risk you could be left paying the higher rates for a long time. 

    Ultimately, the longer you're on this initial tariff the more it will eat into any savings you might make from the EV tariff. 

     

How to get an EV tariff – you'll usually need to be an existing customer

As we've mentioned above, the unprecedented situation in the energy market right now means that for most people, it's not really worth grabbing one of these tariffs. However, if you still want one, we've info on how to get an EV tariff below.

  • To sign up to an EV tariff, you'll need to go direct to the supplier, you won't be able switch via any comparison sites. What's more, most electric vehicle deals are only available to existing customers. If you're already with the firm you want an EV tariff from, then it's easy, but if not there's a few more steps involved:

    If you're an existing customer, it's easy 

    If you're already with the supplier that's offering your EV tariff of choice, it's super-easy, just ask it to move you over to the EV tariff. 

    If you don't have a smart meter the supplier can read, you'll need to get one installed. This could take a few weeks, but once that's sorted you can be moved on to the EV tariff immediately. 

    If you're a new customer, you'll need to switch to a regular tariff first

    If you're not currently with the supplier you want an EV tariff from, there's a few things you'll need to before you can be moved on to it: 

    • Step 1: Switch to a regular tariff with the firm that's offering your EV tariff. Make sure you pick its cheapest deal, as you're likely to be on this for a few weeks – do a Cheap Energy Club comparison to find it.

      Once you've switched to it, then you'll need to ask it to switch you to the EV tariff – you can either contact it by phone or email, or some will let you request it through your online account.
        
    • Step 2: Get a smart meter installed if you don't already have them. Most EV tariffs rely on smart meters to work, so the supplier can track your use throughout the day and offer cheaper night-time rates.

      So you'll need to wait until your supplier can arrange installation before you can move across to the EV tariff. If you already have smart meters, you may still need to wait a few weeks while your supplier connects to your meters.

      Once your smart meters are installed and your supplier is receiving readings from them, you should be moved across to the EV tariff.

    Some EV tariffs are for electricity-only, so don't forget to sort your gas tariff 

    If your EV tariff is an electricity-only tariff, don't forget to sort out your gas tariff. You can usually find cheap gas-only deals – do a Cheap Energy Club gas-only comparison to find your winner.

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