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True cost of electric vehicle tariffs unclear to consumers

28 January 2019

A lack of clear information is making it difficult for electric vehicle (EV) drivers to work out the best electricity tariff to choose to charge their vehicles, according to new research from Citizens Advice.

The charity also found a wide variation in the price of tariffs available. And that some consumers, such as those who are ineligible for the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) charge point grant, aren’t able to fully access the benefits of EV tariffs.

Unclear extras such as discounts on home chargers, free installation of chargers and discounts for public chargers, make it hard for consumers to determine the actual cost of a particular tariff.

The report - Take Charge - released today, finds there is a lack of comparison tools tailored to EV drivers and that EV tariffs rarely feature on existing price comparison sites.

The charity believes that solutions need to be developed to support EV drivers, including tools to help accurately estimate bills. It also believes that in time, price comparison sites should look to include EV tariffs and develop dedicated EV sections.

Night-time charging offers best deal for consumers

The research found that EV owners whose routine allows them to charge exclusively during the night will likely have a cheaper bill on an Economy 7 tariff.

Tariff prices vary widely

Among the report’s other key findings were that tariffs vary widely according to suppliers and meter type. The estimated annual costs ranged from £811 to £1,442.

The charity created a price model to estimate the annual costs of certain EV tariffs. It found that single rate tariffs varied between £1,298 and £1,442. While estimates for Economy 7 tariffs targeted at EV users ranged between £811 and £938.

The research highlights that EV-specific tariffs do not necessarily offer the best rates for EV users.

EV tariff benefits not open to all consumers

Some suppliers only offer home chargers to customers eligible for the OLEV Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme. The scheme provides a grant which is a 75% contribution towards the cost of one charge point and its installation up to a maximum of £500 (inc. VAT).

If consumers don’t qualify for the scheme and can’t access its financial benefits, the value of their tariff could be significantly different.

Other groups that may struggle to access the benefits of EV tariffs include those who don’t want to pay by monthly direct debit. 8 of the 10 tariffs analysed only allowed for payment by monthly direct debit, with other payment options costing people more.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The EV tariff market is expanding rapidly and it is crucial that consumers can make informed choices.

“It’s important to have genuine choice between competing tariffs. That means there needs to be transparency of costs and that suppliers properly support this growing group of consumers.”

Notes to editors

  1. The report - Take Charge - is based on desk research conducted in September 2018
  2. To access the OLEV Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme Individuals must have access to off-street parking facilities; the date of installation must be no more than 4 months after the start of the vehicle use; and individuals are only eligible for the grant if they own an EV which is eligible for the Plug-in Car or Van Grant.
  3. Citizens Advice includes the national charity; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
  4. Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and post. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.
  5. The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free, independent support for prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.
  6. Citizens Advice offers Pension Wise services at 500 locations in England and Wales.
  7. Citizens Advice’s services are free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to all regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  8. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit
  9. For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 to talk in Welsh.
  10. We helped 2.6 million people face to face, by phone, email and webchat in 2017-18. For service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
  11. Citizens Advice staff are supported by over 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 locations in England and Wales.