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How much does it cost to run an electric car in the UK?

Having logged the electricity usage for two years and over twenty thousand miles, we can confirm that the savings from EV ownership are substantial when compared to petrol or diesel fuelled cars.

Our home charger was installed as part of a Government pilot scheme to assess the usage patterns of electric car owners. It’s been transmitting our energy usage back to Chargemaster’s databases since we leased our EV in 2017. The Mercedes 250e used during the test didn’t have a very good range and no facility to rapid charge. Hence, away from home charging wasn’t an option over the two years – making the figures representative of the overall running costs. The figures are based on an electricity tariff of 11p a unit in 2018 and 10.28p in 2017. Over this two-year period, we covered 21,618 miles at a cost of £0.05486 per mile. Making the running cost £1,186 for two years or £593 per year – which is remarkably near the running cost estimates on Sust-it.

If you’re interested in the Mercedes 250e ownership experience, please take a look at our video review.

Cost of running electric car vs petrol

Electric cars are considerably cheaper to run at the moment, as we’re being encouraged to convert from polluting diesel to petrol hybrids and pure electric vehicles. I’m sure these tax incentives will diminish once the government coffers are reduced as fuel duty tax returns drop. Our advice, if you can afford an electric car, is to grab yourself cheaper motoring while you can, or better still simply drive less! For company car drivers and business owners, the incentives are even more tempting. Check out our guide to EV ownership.

We did a comparison between a Nissan Leaf and a Skoda Citigo; this outlines the savings over an average week of motoring.

Calculating the cost of charging an electric car

As with many of things in life, there is no one simple, straightforward answer to this question – there are lots of variables. The biggest factor will be the capacity of the battery in your electric vehicle (EV) and what price you’re paying for energy. And of course, how much charge is left in the battery when it’s topped-up. The basic rule of thumb is the longer the range of your EV, the more it’s going to cost to fully charge.

Electric vehicles running costs

Manufacturers aren’t making it easy to identify battery capacity. They often quote models in kilowatts hours (kWh) or Amp-hours (Ah). Looking for the kWh of the vehicle’s battery is the simplest way to get a rough idea of its charging cost, as we buy electricity in kWh units. So, if you have a 40-kW battery that is completely empty (something you should never do, more on this in a future post!) it would cost 40 x your kilowatts hours tariff. Let’s keep it simple – 40 x 15p (kWh) tariff = £6.00 to fully charge the battery.

We’ve developed two handy electric car calculators that highlight the potential savings that switching to electric can have. Here’s our Electric Car Journey Cost Calculator and Petrol and Diesel Car Journey Calculator

Electric Car Journey Cost Calculator

How long should it take to charge an electric car?

Again, this depends on the variables – yet more complications – such as what your car can cope with in terms of energy input, and the charging unit/station you’re connecting to.

There are three types of chargers:

Rapid – Usually found at Motorway Service Stations and are AC (Alternating) or DC (Direct Current). Rapid AC chargers are rated at 43 kW. Rapid DC units are over 50 kW. These will charge most EVs to 80% in about 30-60 minutes depending on the battery’s capacity. Tesla’s Superchargers are DC and charge at 120 kW making them much faster!

Fast – Mostly found in supermarkets and car parks. These are rated at 7 kW to 22 kW and should fully charge an EV in 4-5 hours.

Slow – best for overnight charging, taking about 6 to 12 hours to charge a pure EV. Plugin hybrids (PHEV’s) should take less as they have smaller battery capacities. These are rated up to 3kW

Electric Car Reviews

Things to check before having an electric car charger installed 

Always check your vehicles charging rates. The Mercedes 250e we ran for two years could only be charged with slow or fast chargers. So no Rapid charges on the motorway, making long journeys a non-starter for this car – unless you fancy a 5/8-hour comfort break!  This car was even more complicated by the fact that it required a three-phase electricity supply (415v) to charge at any reasonable speed, even on a fast charger. Our home-charger was a 30A single-phase unit (240v), which works well with most EV’s.

More details on the practicalities of electric car ownership can be found here.

Is an electric car right for you?

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How many green energy suppliers! Are their tariffs really 100% renewable electricity?

We’ve just updated our UK energy companies fuel-mix database. The most striking thing is the sheer number of new energy suppliers – and, more worrying, those that have gone bust!

The energy supplier market seems to be awash with choice, with the number who claim to be 100% renewable going through the roof. Others seem to miraculously become super green energy providers overnight, after a simple name change. How come? Smoke and mirrors? It’s certainly looking that way.

What’s the difference between energy generators and suppliers?

Generating and distributing energy is a complex business. It involves physical stuff… power stations, wind turbines, hydro schemes, solar arrays, biomass, and distribution networks. They provide all the complex capital-intensive infrastructure side of building and maintaining electricity generation and energy networks.

The size and scale of these energy generators vary: From a farmer with a medium-sized wind turbine; A community group with a few solar panels; to EDF energy with a fleet of nuclear power stations. These bigger energy companies, and renewable focused companies such as Ecotricity and Good Energy, operate as both generators, building and maintaining infrastructure – and energy suppliers, servicing and selling their energy directly to customers.

Why are there so many energy suppliers?

Most energy suppliers, especially the newer ones, don’t get their hands dirty in energy generation as such. They act as intermediaries, energy traders, shop fronts, glossy branding exercises, customer metering and billing portals, or even white labelled web apps. Buying in energy and doing deals within the wholesale energy market, or direct with generators. Hedging their bets, then flogging this energy back to us, whilst hopefully making a profit. Hence, it’s somewhat easier to become an energy supplier. As you never have to invest in generating watts. Suppliers are ‘retailing’ energy, rather than ‘manufacturing’ or even ‘delivering’ the goods.

How can an energy supplier become 100% green overnight?

Okay, so many of the UK’s energy suppliers (retailers) have no energy-generating infrastructure e.g. windmills, solar farms, biomass burners or hydro generation to worry about. This means it’s easy for them to simply flip to green generated electricity overnight. Just purchase a load of renewable green energy from the wholesale market, then sell this as a green eco energy tariff – sounds great. Environmentally conscious consumers feel good. Their green energy is at a competitive price. The energy supplier ticks all its Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) boxes.

The problem is that this so-called renewable energy may not be that green, it could be rebadged fossil fuel-generated brown energy. How?

Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs) can change the colour of energy?

REGOs is a mechanism (certificates) that Ofgem – UK’s energy regulator – issues as proof of renewable generation. Unfortunately, energy suppliers can source these REGOs without actually purchasing the electricity they relate to, or put it another way, energy suppliers/generators who have already used this power to supply their customers can sell their surplus REGOs.

These purchased REGOs can then be purchased by energy suppliers to offset their brown energy in their fuel-mix reporting, turning brown energy to green… alchemy!

The secondary trading of these REGOs has become commonplace, exploiting a loophole in the fuel-mix reporting rules. You can buy REGOs for just a few pence per MWh and miraculously greenwash your brown electricity, without ever buying a single watt of renewable energy. Fantastic, a feelgood eco marketing opportunity opens up!

An interesting example of this was First Utility who became Shell Energy, then suddenly made their 700,000 customers 100% renewable. Amazing!

What’s the problem with REGOs

The real issue with REGOs is consumer trust with the energy sector. Having a pop at energy companies appears to be a national pastime. They’re either ripping consumers off, making too much money or going bust. Now we can’t even believe what’s a real green energy tariff – this simply isn’t on.

A situation where energy supply companies can green-up their energy without buying any renewable energy seems madness. This completely undermines those energy companies who are genuinely committed to investing in renewable energy generation infrastructure – and are prepared to get their hands dirty. In stark contrast to the cynical suppliers playing the energy market whilst pretending to be ‘touchy-feely eco-warriors’

Fuel-Mix Disclosure should reflect real-world renewable generation.

Fuel Mix Disclosure should include energy acquired through renewable generation purchased, not those acquired in the secondary REGO market. This is a problem for Ofgem to sort, as real ethical renewable energy generation companies are at a distinct disadvantage. What is their USP if everyone’s gone green overnight?

At the moment we have no way of knowing which companies are genuinely 100% renewable and investing in decarbonising our economy. The Fuel Mix data being published is becoming increasingly meaningless.

Energy conservation matters

Hopefully, the UK is going full-speed-ahead with decarbonising its energy sector. I hope those playing these cynical green marketing tactics, start investing in new renewable generation infrastructure, as well as the smart grid tech. They also need to promote, the often-forgotten energy conservation measures, although these are frequently overlooked as there isn’t money to be made. After all, the greenest kilowatt is the one that isn’t used.

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My advice would be to choose an energy company that invests directly in new renewable generation facilities. Creating new renewable capacities, such as Ecotricity or Good Energy.

Switch energy supplier

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Please note: We do not publish sponsored content or guest posts that are trying to promote specific products or brands. If you have a genuine newsworthy story you would like to share please do comment or email.     

Is an electric car right for you?

Goodbye to Feed-in Tariffs (FIT), say hello to Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

It must be tough times for those working as solar power installers, especially after the death of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) in March 2019. And now consumers are facing a 15% VAT price hike on installing low-carbon energy generation and storage equipment. The reality of a #ClimateEmergency seems to be passing by those driving low carbon energy policy-making decisions.

Say goodbye to Feed-in Tariff (FIT)

Long gone are the ‘gold rush’ days for the PV industry. The Government used to guarantee those who installed micro-renewable generation an index-linked income for 25 years!  Okay, lots of solar panel installers made a lot of money out these initiatives, even renting roofs to claim the FIT subsidies.  It kick-started a whole new industry, creating jobs (34,000 according to Solar Trade Association) and skills in the new green economy sector. More importantly, it raised awareness of solar PV energy as a viable option – even in the wet and windy UK.

A 9.55GW peak of clean energy this May

In less than a decade PV solar panels became an everyday fixture on many homes.  On May 15th 2019, at midday, solar generation hit a peak of 9.55GW of clean energy, which is a new UK record. This power was generated by over 975,000 homes, businesses and communities, making us less reliant on large energy generators, and reducing emissions.

Home solar panels (PV) cost a quarter of what they did ten years ago

As the PV market developed the prices for solar panels dropped dramatically, as did the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) payments.  Ten years ago a 4kw home solar system could have cost you £20k, now you’re looking at £5k. Predictions of further decline in the cost of panels are projected.  However, the economics of installing home generation aren’t stacking up in purely financial terms – environmentally it’s a no brainer, especially if you’re at home during the day, or own an electric car, and not forgetting having a roof pointing in the right direction!

Electric Car Reviews

Free electricity for your next-door-neighbour! Why?

For anyone installing a solar generation at the moment, any surplus electricity you generated would go straight back to the grid. Effectively giving your next-door-neighbour free power, or to put it another way, subsidising the energy companies supplying them. Yep, you pay for the kit to generate clean energy, then the grid gives it to your neighbour who then gets charged for it! Sounds fair?

Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) to replace FIT?

This is where Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) comes in. Hopefully, this will make the whole “do I? Don’t I?” install solar more viable. The idea is power companies will pay you for the energy you generate, similar to the Feed-in Tariff (FIT). The big difference is it will be monitored by your smart meter, recording what you export back to the grid,  then paying you for your surplus energy.  That’s sounding much better!

Other factors that should help with the “do I? Don’t I?” install solar PV is the growing energy storage technologies. Batteries that store electricity during the day; then feed this back into your house at night when you need it.  Getting around the “I’m not home to use the energy in the daytime” scenario.  This does drive-up the cost of any system, plus the batteries have a limited life. So again the maths needs careful consideration.

Energy storage, grid balancing and the market

Energy storage and smart metering are also opening up possibilities for smaller generators to enter the energy market, potentially through their existing energy supplier.  Storing electricity while there is a surplus, or when prices are low, then selling it back to the grid when prices are high – all helping to balance the grid.  Even electric car (EV) batteries could be used as energy stores – much better than diesel generators sitting on standby.

Is an electric car right for you?

This technology is being developed, alongside the regulations to police it. Let’s hope the policymakers and regulators get it right, and those who install renewable energy production get a fair return. Could this be the first step to democratising electricity generation and the energy market, or will it add yet more complexity?

I’m hoping to see more panels on roofs and a vibrant green energy sector.

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Please note: We do not publish sponsored content or guest posts that are trying to promote specific products or brands. If you have a genuine newsworthy story you would like to share please do comment or email.     

Smart tech – always listening, always on! “Alexa how much energy do you use?”

All homes have a background energy usage driven by the electricals that are on 24/7. Refrigerators, appliances on standby, set-top boxes, TVs, pumps, boilers, broadband routers, computers, chargers – the list of items sucking energy goes on and on!  Now smart devices… voice-controlled ‘smart speakers’ and home hubs have become the next ‘must-have’ tech. The irony is that this tech is consuming far more electricity than the old enemy – leaving stuff on standby!

Connected homes are being touted as the next big thing for those who have trouble typing, can’t find their remotes, or need help setting the timer on their heating! I hear myself now shouting “Hey Google! Siri! Alexa! Where’s my phone?” … “I don’t know… but I’ve found this on the web.”

Smart thermostat controls, making your heating work less

Whilst these devices may make life easier, and could potentially save you some energy if you’re using smart thermostat controls, like Google’s Nest or British Gas Hive products. Managing your heating as efficiently as possible it should get your bills down. These devices learn temperatures you like, then adjust automatically.  They’re controllable from smartphones, so if you’re delayed getting home you could remotely re-schedule your heating to come on later. Programming boilers on/off cycles should be much more user-friendly when done through an app interface. According to Nest’s own US research customers saved about 10-12% on their heating bills. However, I was quite surprised to see that the Nest thermostat uses 1kWh per month in standby.

Hive, owned by Centrica (British Gas) have claimed savings of £150 a year. These claims are really difficult to substantiate as it’s more about behavioural changes than the tech itself – turning down your heating a bit, wearing more clothes, or draft proofing your home could be equally effective. Combine this with switching to LED lighting, or upgrading to more efficient appliances, and you could easily match these claimed savings from installing their smart tech devices, without the expense.

Motion trackers helping disabled or older people, and those with health conditions

British Gas recently introduced a monitoring service that bolts onto the connected home Hive products. It’s available for a fee of £15 a month, plus a one-off £150 upfront charge. When installed a carer receives alerts via an app if anything out of the usual routine happens, such as a kettle not being switched on at the same time each day, or rooms not being entered. The monitoring is not meant as a replacement to everyday visits or contact, but as a safety guide to thousands of unpaid carers.

The Hive Link service does not have a camera; however, it does include motion sensors, window and door sensors, plus plugin sensors that monitor a regularly used appliance and electricals. This technology could expand further to detect falls and provide help with managing medicines.

Carers UK has partnered with British Gas on the Hive project, alongside the charity Caring Communities, to enable those they support to stay in their own homes for longer.

Smart tech, it’s not all good news

As most homes are struggling to find a spare socket to plug in the latest bit of tech, sales of extension leads and triple adaptors must be going the through the roof. All these devices are only going to increase energy bills. Finding out what these bits of kit use isn’t easy. Nest, owned by Google, make lots of claims on how much you could save by using their thermostat. They then fail to publish meaningful data on their connected home products, such as their Google Home Hub and voice-activated speakers. We contacted them, through their chat service, over three months ago regarding this, and as yet, they have not updated any energy usage data information.

Amazon’s energy usage figures aren’t well publicised and are vague when compared to Apple’s. And we’ve yet to find any environmental reporting, by Amazon, regarding the materials, manufacturing or recycling – not great.

Apple, on the other hand, has got their environmental reporting act together – since the Greenpeace campaign against them a few years back. All the energy usage data is there in understandable terms. Materials used in its manufacture and recycling information are well publicised, unlike the other tech giants!

Other premium smart speaker brands such as B&O, Bose and Sonos appear to be ignoring the fact that their products consume energy. If data is provided it doesn’t reflect real-world usage.

As yet there are no reporting standards or energy labelling requirements for this new classification on products – tech and the market get ahead of the policy makers again! Hopefully, this will change as the market matures.

Could smart connected homes drive up your energy bills?

Whilst the energy usage of these devices may seem trivial, it’s the cumulative effect of tens of millions of these devices in our homes. All adding to the background energy usage across the country. Even small reductions in the energy usage of smart devices could make massive reductions in the overall UK energy consumption.

A more worrying aspect of these technologies – from an energy usage perspective – is the back-end cloud and network services driving these products. At moment there doesn’t appear to be much information regarding network/cloud and data transaction impact in carbon emissions terms. A host of other factors would need to be considered to get robust reporting on this, for example, data centres, server configurations, and how these are powered (renewables or fossil-fuelled) to give a view on their carbon impact.

Amazon cloud platform AWS, which hosts the software that drives Alexa, achieved 50% renewable energy usage in early 2018. Their in-house combined solar and wind generation is estimated at 2-gigawatt hours per year. This is used to power some of their server farms. However, if you took that energy generation away from powering the AWS servers and turned it to run Alexa home smart speakers, that 2 Gigawatts would only power approximately 95,000 units a year. It’s estimated that over 75,000,000 smart speaker units have been purchased worldwide in 2018.

Standby energy usage improves to be replaced by not so ‘smart’ stuff!

Back in the day standby and plasma TVs were seen as the villains of energy usage. Now most TVs (apart from supersized LEDs) and peripheral devices have cut their energy usage down dramatically. All good, however, standby is still a waste of energy.

Fast-forward to the present… we have a plethora of smart connected products filling up our homes, constantly drawing more and more background energy than standby devices ever did. And the hidden cloud services that provide the intelligence and computer processing power are consuming yet more energy as they monitor our lives!  So as fast as we make efficiencies, we find more ways to use electricity! The Jevons paradox.

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Please note: We do not publish sponsored content or guest posts that are trying to promote specific products or brands. If you have a genuine newsworthy story you would like to share please do comment or email.     

Is an electric car right for you? Buying new or second-hand, home charging and the practicalities of EV ownership

There’s a lot of hype around electric cars at the moment, possibly due, in part, to the realisation that diesel cars aren’t a cheap, clean option anymore. We were advised to buy them to reduce CO2 emissions and encouraged by the low fuel bills. The dash for diesel has certainly driven down motoring costs, unfortunately, at the expense of air quality – especially in urban areas.

So, after being persuaded to ‘go diesel’, is it now the time to consider going electric? – what are the options? And is it really a practical solution for you and your life style?

Things to consider if you’re thinking of choosing an electric car.

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