Electric vehicle charging: who's in control?

We interviewed electric car drivers to hear what they thought about two types of smart charging:
User-managed charging and Supplier managed charging.

The Challenge

A previous trial showed the way people charged their electric cars could be a big headache for the electricity sector, as mainstream consumers typically charge at peak times (4-7pm).

Adding to the existing early evening demand peak potentially creates two types of problem:

  • Supply-demand balancing is made more difficult, particularly as generation is decarbonised.
  • Local network capacity constraints may be exceeded, potentially requiring costly upgrades to transformers and cabling.

However, these could be addressed through “Smart” or “Managed” Charging. We interviewed drivers to understand their views.


drivers took part
  • 30 had a fully electric car
  • 15 had a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)  
  • 15 didn’t have an electric car themselves but had experienced charging one as part of a research trial

They were interviewed about their experiences charging electric cars and their responses to two versions of smart charging that could be introduced to tackle the early-evening-peak problem.

  • Supplier-managed charging – where suppliers or another third party manage when the charging takes place.
  • User-managed charging- where consumers choose their own charging time utilising time-of-use tariffs.

The research led to a theoretical segmentation, based on themes emerging from analysis of the interviews.

The Result

"The study provides compelling evidence for how the increased electricity demand from electric vehicles can be managed. Smart managed charging was shown to be highly successful in shifting charging away from peak times. As well as lowering costs for all concerned, this can ensure that EVs are being charged from low carbon generation such as wind power, accelerating the journey towards Net Zero."

Liam Lidstone - Infrastructure and Engineering lead at Energy Systems Catapult

The Value

Understanding charging behaviour helps the electricity industry plan and understand the potential for smart charging to tackle the early-evening-peak problem.

It also helps electricity suppliers design smart charging Customer Value Propositions.

We used these findings to design some charging tariffs to trial.

Find out more about the trial to learn how people charged their cars.

Want to understand consumers?

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