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Citizens Advice issues recommendations for electric car incentives

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The electric vehicle and energy sector should put consumers at the heart of the design process as new methods for charging electric cars are developed, says Citizens Advice

The charity has researched drivers’ attitudes towards new ‘smart’ charging schemes and issued a number of recommendations to help cope with the likely demand for electric vehicles in the coming years.

Electric car owners tend to charge their cars in the evening. This could put significant pressure on the electricity grid – there is already a spike in demand from people coming home, turning on lights and heating, and cooking dinner.

Citizens Advice said there is an opportunity to develop ‘smart’ charging schemes for electric vehicles that are convenient and fair for drivers, but don’t put pressure on the electricity grid. Drivers should be offered lower tariffs in return for moving their charging to times of the day when there is less demand on the grid and electricity is cheaper.

Other ideas could see electric cars plugged in and ‘selling’ electricity back to the grid while their owners visit a shopping centre for instance.

Citizens Advice said electric vehicle charging schemes should protect customers, be easy to use, be tailored to different customer needs and allow customers to retain control and set preferences

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The electric vehicle market is small, but rapidly expanding. It’s also a vital part of the decarbonisation of the whole transport system. If the evolution of new charging systems is to be a success, drivers need to be involved and listened to from the start.

“The potential risks and benefits can be hard for people to assess – particularly if, like most of us, they don’t own or have access to an electric vehicle. It’s also really important that the needs of people with limited budgets or mobility issues are considered and these groups are not left behind.”

Ofgem responded to the proposals: “Ofgem’s reforms will help more users charge their electric vehicles and save them – and all energy consumers – money by offering incentives for charging at the right time.

“’Flexible’ charging using ‘smart chargers’ will allow more electric vehicles to be charged from the existing grid when energy prices are cheapest, for example when wind and solar power is generating lots of electricity or when there is less demand across the system. This reduces the need for expensive new power stations and extra grid capacity to be built to meet peak demand.” 
The regulator said it would examine Citizens Advice’s recommendations in detail and continue to work with them, other stakeholders and the government to ensure the electric vehicle revolution in Britain benefits as many consumers as possible.

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