Why Electric Vehicles (EVs) will transform our world

According to 2018 Special Report on climate change by the United Nations, keeping global temperature increases to within 1.5°C will require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.

One of the key solutions to tackling the climate crisis will involve the way that we travel. Most of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles that are now on our roads must be replaced by Electric Vehicles as quickly as possible.

The UK has legislated to ban the sale of vehicles powered just by combustion engines by 2030, and will ban the sale of hybrid cars by 2035.

To facilitate this change, towns and cities across the UK will have to install thousands of charge points on streets and in homes to meet the demand from all the cars that need power. This will have a major impact on the overall electricity demand, which is one reason why we must accelerate the rollout of renewable energy generation across the country (while at the same time working to reduce the energy consumption from our buildings by improving energy efficiency).

Aside from the obvious difference of not having to fill-up your electric car at a petrol station, being an electric vehicle owner will introduce a suite of new opportunities that you may not have considered.

Because an electric vehicle is essentially a battery on wheels, EV owners can use their car to become active members of the new energy landscape, one made up of local microgrids, flexible electricity networks, demand side response, and variable ‘Time of Use’ tariffs.

How much does it cost to run an electric car
Becoming the owner of an electric car brings a whole suite of benefits, including reduced vehicle running costs and potentially cheaper energy bills. Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

How much does it cost to run an electric car?

The cost to charge an electric vehicle from a completely empty battery to a full charge can be worked out by multiplying the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour (kWh) by the capacity of the battery.

For an example, let’s look at the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range, the most popular EV in the UK as of July 2021. The car has a 50kWh battery, which will give an estimated range of 165 miles.

If you were to charge the battery from zero up to 100 % using a British Gas Standard tariff, which costs 20p per kWh of electricity, then a full charge would cost you £10.

Whilst a full tank of petrol would power a car for more than 165 miles, it will also cost around £60. For a £60 spend on a Tesla Model 3 you could travel 990 miles – so a much greater number of miles per £1 spent.

How to save money when charging your electric vehicle by switching to a Time of Use tariff

Most of the time you will probably be charging your electric car overnight.

You could reduce the cost of charging significantly by switching your home energy supply to an Economy 7 tariff and charging your EV between the hours of 12am and 7am.

A typical night time charge for an Economy 7 tariff is 11p, which would mean a cost of only £5.50 to fully refuel a Tesla Model 3.

Some energy companies are offering extremely low prices for customers who want to charge their EVs overnight. The Octopus ‘Go’ tariff, for example, is offering a rate of just 5p/kWh between the hours of 00:30 and 04:30.

Can you charge an electric vehicle battery with solar panels?

One of the best ways to reduce the cost of charging your electric car is by powering it with solar panels. This is also one of the most economically beneficial ways to use electricity generated from your solar panels, if you have them.

If your vehicle is often at home during the day and can be charged by solar power as it is being generated, there are some innovative new offers on the market to help EV owners minimise their costs.

Using a normal ‘dumb’ charger, your EV will often draw more electricity than the solar panels can produce. Dutch company Zappi have created a unique offering for customers with their ‘Zappi smart charger’.

The Zappi smart-charger can ‘harvest’ excess power from a building’s solar panels so that the car is only charged using excess solar electricity which would otherwise have been exported to the electricity grid.

Can you charge an electric vehicle battery with solar panels - zappi smart charger
The Zappi smart charger presents a cost-effective solution for EV owners who also have solar panels. Photo by Charlotte Stowe on Unsplash

Can I use my electric vehicle to power my property?

Using your electric car to provide energy to your house, otherwise known as ‘Vehicle to Home or V2H’, provides yet another appealing possibility for property owners who want to get maximum value out of their EV.

If a property is signed up to a Time of Use Tariff, where electricity prices vary throughout the day, then they could charge the EV battery at times when electricity prices are low (12am until 5am), and then use that stored energy to power the home at times when prices are high (5pm until 8pm).

You could gain even greater cost efficiencies by combining your electric vehicle battery with an air source heat pump, which delivers heat at a lower cost per kilowatt hour than traditional electric radiators or storage heaters. A car battery is huge in terms of electrical energy storage, and could run even a large home with a heat pump on the coldest days of the year.

By taking measures to increase the energy efficiency of your property and reducing overall energy demand, property owners will be able to meet a greater percentage of their energy consumption through solar panels and battery storage, saving themselves money and enabling greater self-sufficiency.

How can an EV be used to provide ‘Vehicle to Grid’ flexibility services to the local electricity network?

The way our electricity is generated is in the process of transitioning from being provided by a few big, national companies who rely on fossil fuels, to being produced by many smaller, distributed generators who rely renewable energy.

Because renewable energy sources like solar power and wind power are variable, our electricity network needs to become much more ‘flexible’ – reacting to peaks and troughs in energy supply and demand as they happen.

One of the key pillars to creating this flexible network will be the integration of thousands of batteries which can store renewable energy at the times it is being generated and discharge it at times of peak demand. In the case of electric vehicles this is known as a ‘Vehicle to Grid or V2G’ service.

Moixa 4.8kw system
Moixa's GridShare platform enables owners of a Moixa smart battery to be digitally connected with other smart battery owners, creating a 'Virtual Power Plant' which can support the local electricity grid by providing flexibility services. Photo: Moixa

The transition to a flexible network presents battery owners with a new opportunity for revenue generation because they can store electricity from their own solar panels for free or charge their battery at times when costs are cheap, and then sell this to local electricity users at a higher price during times of peak demand.

The V2G and V2H technology already exists with the Chademo charging system and trials are ongoing with Octopus & OVO. The more common Combined Charging System (CCS) standard will not be V2G ready until 2025.

UK based battery supplier Moixa are offering substantial savings on the cost of a battery to homeowners in the Worthing and Littlehampton area if they opt-in to Moixa’s ‘GridShare’ membership scheme, agreeing to provide flexibility services to the local electricity grid.

Added together, what are the benefits of owning an electric vehicle?

As we have seen, being an owner of an electric vehicle presents an abundance of ways to save costs for home and business owners.

This could be by saving on the running costs of the car compared to an ICE vehicle, storing cheap energy for use in the home at times when costs are higher, or creating a new income stream by using the car battery to provide grid flexibility services.

And of course, the most important benefit of switching to an electric car is that is does not emit any carbon emissions during use, which is essential if the world is to keep within a safe and stable climate.

If you are considering purchasing an electric car or already own one and want to understand more about the ways to better use the car battery to support your property’s energy demands then speak with a BHESCo adviser about an energy survey or a remote consultation.

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