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Electric car owners PAID to charge as prices turned negative


A slump in demand for power over the bank holiday weekend saw some electric car owners make money when charging their vehicles, it has been revealed.

That came as wholesale electricity prices turned negative because of lower demand and sunny and windy weather increasing renewable energy production. 

For some customers of Octopus Energy, this meant their electric vehicles earned money by charging for long periods during the day and night, with some making almost £5.

Paid to plug-in: Some electric cars owners earned money over the bank holiday weekend due to electricity prices going negative due to reduced demand

Paid to plug-in: Some electric cars owners earned money over the bank holiday weekend due to electricity prices going negative due to reduced demand

Octupus Energy said customers using its ‘Agile’ green tariff and an Ohme cable or home charger, benefited from the reduced demand on the grid, as they were paid to use excess electricity.

The smart Ohme system lets electric vehicle owners charge only when demand prices are lowest – or negative in this case.

One driver, for instance, was paid £4.51 to charge up his Tesla Model 3 with enough electricity to drive over 650 miles – the fuel bill would have cost more than £100 in an equivalent petrol car, a BMW 3 series.

That is, in theory, enough energy to drive – coincidentally – from London to County Durham and back.

Octopus Agile charges customers based on wholesale prices, which allows people on this tariff to benefit from lower prices when excess power is available. 

And with periods of negative prices occurring more frequently, as families make the most of the outdoors during lockdown, cook on barbecues instead of using ovens and use less heating due to the warmer May temperatures, the chances of benefiting from the tariff were ripe during the bank holiday. 

For example, on Saturday 23 May, prices were negative for more than 12 hours, from early morning to the middle of the day, and drivers were paid up to 11p per kWh they used.

Electricity prices through Octopus Energy's Agile tariff were negative for more than 12 hours on Saturday

Electricity prices through Octopus Energy’s Agile tariff were negative for more than 12 hours on Saturday

Ohme's smart cable can turn the charging on-and-off throughout the day or night to minimise the costs and take advantage of the lower energy prices

Ohme’s smart cable can turn the charging on-and-off throughout the day or night to minimise the costs and take advantage of the lower energy prices

Ohme’s smart charging technology enables drivers to optimise charges during these period when prices are at rock bottom.

It chooses the best time for the car to charge based on how much battery capacity owners say they’ll need the next day and what the predicted power prices will be over the next 24 hours. 

Ohme will turn the charging on-and-off throughout the day or night to minimise the costs and take advantage of the lower energy prices. 

This also uses surplus renewable energy which could, otherwise, be wasted if wind turbines are curtailed to balance supply and demand.

Jack from Bath said he was paid £1.43 to over the weekend to charge up his Jaguar I-Pace pictured

Jack from Bath said he was paid £1.43 to over the weekend to charge up his Jaguar I-Pace pictured

A Bath electric car owner, who wished only to be identified as Jack, was paid £1.43 to replenish the batteries of his Jaguar I-Pace with 82 kWh of electric – enough to drive more than 200 miles, saving approximately £34 versus a petrol equivalent. 

He said: ‘Unfortunately, I did not have enough empty space in the car battery to take full advantage of electricity prices dropping.

‘So I invited my father, who drives a Tesla and lives around the corner, to plug into my home charger and enjoy free electricity and earn me some money.

‘Because the charger and cables are outside, there was no need for us to go within two metres of each other, so we could still social distance and get paid for charging.’

Another electric car driver posted on Twitter: ‘I drive from Bath to Edinburgh… and Octopus PAY ME enough to buy 2 pints of cask ale and a bag of crisps’, as other drivers were posting energy prices over the weekend.   

David Watson, CEO and founder of Ohme said: ‘Smart charging is obviously great news for EV drivers, reducing the total cost of owning an EV significantly by passing on energy cost savings. 

‘As well as being a more efficient cleaner mode of transport, EVs will have a profound positive impact on the grid, unlocking value by cheaply shifting demand to times where there is an excess of renewable energy on the system.’

Fiona Howarth, CEO of Octopus Electric Vehicles added: ‘Electric cars can save drivers up to 90 per cent fuel saving normally, but this weekend we even saw drivers getting paid to fill up as Octopus Energy’s Agile tariff prices dropped below zero for a few hours – saving some drivers up to £85. 

‘Even better, drivers with smart tech like the Ohme cable were able to seamlessly take advantage of the negative prices without having to think about when to start and stop their charging – it just happened automatically – a great snapshot of a smart, green future.’

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