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The rise of community charging: How EV plug-sharing is helping soothe the cost of living

Community charging is helping drivers charge their vehicles for less.
Community charging is helping drivers charge their vehicles for less.   -   Copyright  Co Charger
By Callum Tennant

A growing number of electric vehicle (EV) owners are opting to rent and let charging plugs in an attempt to beat price rises and bring in a bit of extra income.

There’s no doubt that getting your vehicle from A to B has become more expensive over the last year, as rising fuel costs ramp up the cost-of-living crisis. European petrol prices, which were already rising post-COVID, catapulted to record highs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Unfortunately for owners of EVs, the price of electricity has also soared.

The year-on-year cost of electricity for household consumers had increased in all but two EU member states in the second half of 2021. In Estonia, electricity prices jumped by 50.2 per cent alone. This was before the impacts of the Ukraine war were felt.

Sharing EV plugs is one local solution, with added benefits in areas where the rollout of public chargers isn’t keeping up with demand.

Not all EV charging costs are equal

At the end of May, the UK’s RAC (Road Analysis Control) issued a warning over the sharp increase in cost to motorists of using rapid charging points.

The price of charging an electric car on a pay-as-you-go model at a publicly accessible rapid charger has increased by 21 per cent over the last nine months, the RAC said. Though it noted that even with this increase, rapid charging was still less expensive than petrol or diesel per mile.

While not increasing as much as rapid charging, charging your EV on a public charger or at home has also become more expensive.

However, the AA motoring group says that charging EVs from lampposts is 46 per cent cheaper than on-road rapid charging points.

In the UK, as in other countries, EV motorists using public charging points are still put at a disadvantage to those using plugs they have at home. Electricity coming from public chargers and lampposts in the UK is taxed at 20 per cent, compared with 5 per cent for those using their homes to charge their EVs.

The rise of community charging

Co Charger
Stefano Tonelli says he is "delighted" to share his charger with other London locals.Co Charger

In order to get around this and save money, some drivers have begun to share their home EV plugs. Whole companies have now sprung up with the sole goal of connecting EV drivers who don’t have access to a home charger with those who do.

For a small charge, EV users can use their ‘neighbours’’ charger for a cheaper overall price.

One such company is JustPark. In the three months to May, the company saw a 77 per cent increase in the number of community charging bookings it received.

The demand for such companies may be reduced in the future by measures such as the UK government’s new rules that all newly built residential homes need to be equipped with EV charging points.

But community charging could still prove useful for those without off-street parking or in areas with a high EV uptake.

If I can help my neighbours switch to electric cars by sharing my charger, then I’m delighted to do so.

Stefano Tonelli, a retired architect who lives in London, started using another community charging company called Co Charger to become a ‘host’.

Unlike most of his neighours, he lives in a house with a driveway and owns his own charger.

“My attitude is that we owe it to ourselves, the world and our children to go greener,” says Stefano. “If I can help my neighbours switch to electric cars by sharing my charger, then I’m delighted to do so.”

Of course, letting out chargers also allows users to generate a small extra bit of income too.

How technology is helping EV owners

As well as saving money on taxes and lower costs when using home chargers, users can also programme their chargers to only activate when electricity prices are at their lowest.

Graeme Cooper, the National Grid’s head of future markets, says that technology has enabled EV owners with busy lives to outsource worries about when to charge their vehicles and democratised EV ownership.

“I understand that the grid is cleaner and dirtier at different times,” he tells Euronews Green. “And I understand that energy can be cheaper and more expensive at different times. And the energy sector is actually making that sort of outsourcing easier.”

Community charging is also helping people to make the switch to EVs even if they don’t have a driveway or a nearby public charging point. Instead, people can connect with nearby users to find regular access to a host charger.

This is particularly important given that concerns over a lack of access to an EV charger are one of the biggest obstacles holding people back from making the switch from petrol and diesel vehicles. Community charging is just one of the ways to help alleviate this fear.

The neighbourly solution is not just helping people get through the current squeeze on incomes, therefore. It might also help boost the rollout of EVs.