Why is the OLEV grant only available for 'Smart' chargers?

From July 2019 the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) will only provide the Electric Vehicle Homecharge scheme grant to ‘Smart’ chargers. Which I suppose raises a few important questions. What does Smart actually mean? Why are OLEV doing this? Is it a good idea? And what is the correct way to refer to chargers which are deemed not to be ‘Smart’ without hurting their feelings?

What does ‘Smart’ actually mean?

Do the chargers have to sit some form of IQ exam before they are allowed to be called Smart? Maybe they have to have attended a top 10 University? Nope. All it really means is that they need to be able to be told what to do remotely i.e. to turn themselves on and off, up or down from afar. Maybe by your phone, maybe by your electricity supplier or maybe by something that hasn’t even been invented yet.

Why are OLEV making this change?

Well it’s actually rather simple and it does look like the good people at OLEV appear to have had their heads on the right way round when they decided to make this change. Smart chargers have two really big benefits. Firstly, they can save you lots of money. Because they can turn themselves on and off, up and down without needing their owner to press a button they can wait until the price of electricity is at its lowest before deciding to top up your car’s batteries.

Secondly, they can be controlled by your electricity provider and used to smooth off peaks in demand for electricity at both a national and local level. The smart folks who work at the National Grid have to manage ‘peak demand’ so that when we all get home from work and plug in our cars, boil the kettle and tune in to Eastenders/Love Island/I’m a celebrity we don’t need another big power station in order to cope with this spike in demand. Smart chargers will instead wait until demand for electricity has dropped a little before charging your car at full power. Don’t worry though, there will still be enough time to get a plenty of charge into your car overnight.

Is it a good idea?

Yes it is without a doubt a good idea, smart chargers are much more likely to save you much more money but in the interests of being balanced we did come up with one potential downside, so here it is.

Given that smart chargers are generally more expensive than their 'Basic' siblings you could argue that OLEV are actually driving up the cost of owning an electric car for many people, especially for people who are not eligible for the OLEV grant. By only subsidising Smart chargers the volume of basic charger sales will drop (at least in percentage terms) and their price advantage compared to Smart chargers will decrease. See there we go, look at us being all balanced in our views.

What is the correct way to refer to chargers which are now deemed not to be ‘Smart’ without hurting their feelings?

It’s a tough one, it’s like having a sibling that constantly does better than you at school, you’re told that it’s ok and your parents still love you just as much (apparently) but there is an obvious difference in your abilities. Having spoken to a number of chargers that are not deemed ‘Smart’ under the OLEV rules we have learnt that they would prefer to be called ‘Basic’ rather than ‘not Smart’ or ‘Dumb’ so we’ll be respecting their wishes on this one (We don’t actually sell many ‘Basic’ models any more so this shouldn’t be too problematic…)