Electric vehicle energy tariffs

Electric vehicle energy tariffs

What are they and how do they work?

With over 500,000 electric vehicles on UK roads, some energy suppliers have started offering energy 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

With the energy market in crisis, and the Government stepping in with the energy price guarantee, most providers have stopped offering electric vehicle (EV) tariffs. There is one still left, from Octopus Energy, but it's only available to existing customers. If it's right for you, you may still be able to get it, but you'll need to switch to its standard tariff first (this is harder right now due to the energy crisis, though you may be able to switch to it if you ring 'em up). We'll add full analysis of EV tariffs when more become available 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.


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. 

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. 

  • Single-rate tariffs, where you pay the same rate throughout the day, but it's often 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. 

You can usually only get these tariffs if you own an EV (suppliers say they reserve the right to ask for proof of ownership). For more on owning an EV, or if you're thinking of getting one, see our full Electric Vehicles guide. 

Yet right now, most suppliers have pulled their EV tariffs after the Government introduced the energy price guarantee, which caps bills at £2,500/year for a typical household. 

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 about 38 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 1,976kWh per year to your bill. Using this example, depending on your tariff it would cost an extra:

    • About £5 per week or £240 on the cheapest EV tariff. Provided you ONLY charge your car when the rate is cheap. 

    • About £13 per week or £670 a year on a standard tariff. Based on average rates for a standard variable tariff at the max allowed under the energy price guarantee. 

    Bear in mind this is only the cost of charging the electric vehicle – you still need to factor in your general electricity costs, your gas prices (if you use gas), and the daily standing charges of your tariff. 

    And right now – if you factor all that in, and assume you only charge your car when the rate is cheap – the only EV tariff left (Octopus Go) is only around £55 cheaper a year, based on typical use. 

    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 £150/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. See how to find your nearest public charge point

  • 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. Right now most are best on price-capped standard tariffs due to the current crisis (and most firms are saving their cheaper deals for existing customers). If you do want to check what open-market deals are out there, you can use our Cheap Energy Club to compare – but if do switch to a deal that 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).

  • The cheapest EV energy tariffs tend to be electricity-only (and the one tariff available right now is). This means that if your home also has gas, you'll need to have a separate tariff for it.

    However, some firms do offer dual-fuel EV tariffs (in nornal times, at least), 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 have 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.

    For more info, see our full electric vehicle guide. 

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

Most electric vehicle tariffs have now been pulled from the market  due to the energy crisis (we've analysis of one potentially decent one below for Octopus customers).

That means for most right now, you're unlikely to be able to get an EV tariff. We've kept the info on how to do it for when the deals return, as EV tariffs usually 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 for some, but only for existing Octopus customers

While most EV tariffs have been pulled, there is one electricity-only tariff – Octopus Energy's Octopus Go – that could work out cheaper than being on the energy price guarantee for some EV owners. But it's only really worth it for existing Octopus customers, and you need to make full use of the cheap night-time rate. 

  • How does Octopus Go stack up?

    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 12 pence per kilowatt (kWh) everyday between 00.30am and 04.30 – much cheaper than anything else on the market right now. Yet at all other times of the day, the rates are are significantly higher than the energy price guarantee rates, which applies to all standard tariffs and most fixed deals.  

    So it's all about when you use it. 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), it can save you around £50/year if you only charge the car when the rates are cheap. 

    However, if you often need to charge it outside of the cheap hours, it's unlikely to be worth it.

  • It's only really worth it for existing customers

    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, only has its standard variable tariff available right now and isn't encouraging switching. 

    You may still be able to call it and get switched to its standard tariff, but be aware you'll need to remain on this tariff while you wait for it install smart meters, or connect to your existing ones, before it can move you to its EV tariff.

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

As we've mentioned above, the situation in the energy market right now means that most EV tariffs are no longer available. We've info below on how you generally go about getting one, for when they return. The info also applies to the one remaining tariff from Octopus Energy, if you're interested in that. 

  • How to get an EV tariff

    To sign up to an EV tariff, you'll usually 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. However, due to the energy crisis, most firms only offer their standard variable tariff right now, and you'll likely need to call them to see if it'll let you switch (not all are accepting new customers). 

      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. It's likely you'll need to remain on the standard variable tariff for your gas, either with your existing firm or with the EV tariff provider (the rates will likely be the same), due to energy market crisis. 

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