Consumers, Vehicles and Energy Integration

Published: 8 January 2020

The Consumers, Vehicles and Energy Integration (CVEI) project was launched in 2016 to deliver unique and detailed insight on mainstream consumer behaviour when using and charging battery and hybrid electric vehicles, to understand the changes that will be required of existing infrastructure with the growth in low carbon transport.

An innovative and ambitious project commissioned and funded by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and delivered by a cross-industry consortium led by TRL.

Energy Systems Catapult provided technical expertise and assurance to the project and will take forward the data and models to provide future development of the CVEI capability from the ETI legacy.

The Challenge

There are many challenges and opportunities involved in transitioning to secure and sustainable low-carbon vehicles. Significant benefits include improved air quality, decarbonisation, and potential economic growth. Yet there are barriers to overcome, in regards to consumer uptake and behaviour, integration of vehicles with the energy supply system, energy market structures and UK and European government policy.

Challenges include:

  • Sales of Electric Vehicles are running at 69% year on year growth, while charging infrastructure growth is at 31%1.
  • Current dual fuel households driving all miles on electricity, would nearly double their overall electricity use.
  • Just 30% of motorists currently drive over 60% of miles, so electric vehicles that meet the needs of higher than average mileage drivers are particularly important.
  • Without smart charging the average carbon savings of an electric vehicles might fall from 1.5 tCO2e per vehicle per year to 0.2-0.4 tCO2e per vehicle per year because motorists naturally and predominantly charge in the early evening, when peak electricity demand means higher carbon intensity generation is deployed.

The CVEI project examined the barriers and motivators which influence consumers by providing them with back-to-back experience of using Battery Electric Vehicles or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and an equivalent conventional petrol engine car.

The opportunity was to understand the required changes to existing infrastructure, as well as consumer response to a wider introduction of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles in the UK.

The Solution

The three year CVEI project aimed to deliver unique and detailed insight on mainstream consumer behaviour when using and charging battery and hybrid electric vehicles, to understand the changes that will be required of existing infrastructure with the growth in low carbon transport.

Delivered by a cross-industry consortium led by TRL, with Energy Systems Catapult providing quality assurance through our Transport asset on behalf of the ETI.

TRL are supported by Element Energy, Baringa Partners and Cenex. Other team members include EDF Energy, Route Monkey, EV Connect, Shell and The Behavioural Insights Team.

The project was carried out in two stages. The first stage focussed on detailed analysis and design of market, policy and regulatory frameworks, business models and customer offerings, electricity and liquid fuel infrastructure and technologies throughout the energy system as well as at charging and refuelling points and on-vehicle. This was supported by insights from consumers and fleets into use of plug-in vehicles.

The second stage, commenced in the autumn of 2016, delivered a trial involving approximately 250 mass-market users to validate the impact of solutions identified in stage one and understand consumer and fleet responses to the vehicles and to managed charging schemes.

The objectives of CVEI were:

  • To address challenges and opportunities involved in transitioning to secure and sustainable low-carbon vehicles.
  • Examine integration of vehicles with the energy supply system.
  • Help inform UK and European government policy; and
  • Help shape energy and automotive industry products.

Charging Behaviour Trials

  • To understand how mainstream consumers (i.e. not “early adopters”) responded to tariffs aiming to shift charging away from peak times of demand (between 4-7pm), in order to reduce strain on electricity networks.
  • Consumers were offered one of two types of smart charging – either supplier-managed charging (where suppliers or another third party manage when the charging takes place) or user-managed charging (where consumers choose their own charging time utilising time-of-use tariffs) – as well as a control group without smart charging.
  • 247 consumers were given 2 months with either a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) or Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV).

Vehicle Uptake Trial

  • To understand barriers and motivators influencing mainstream consumer adoption of EVs.
  • 200 consumers were given 4 days with each of 3 vehicles, identical in all but powertrain: BEV, PHEV and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).

The Outcomes

The CVEI study gathered in-depth data from vehicles and charge points for 584,000 miles of journeys and 15,700 charge events, covering both home and public locations, while consumer surveys were undertaken to understand attitudes, perceptions and choices.

The main findings included:

  • 95% of Battery Electric Vehicles drivers and 85% with Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles chose smart charging over dumb charging, to automatically avoid charging at times of peak grid demand or when electricity is most expensive.
  • Mainstream consumers trialling all three types of car said they were willing to pay more for BEVs or PHEVs over an ICE vehicle, as long as the savings on running costs delivered a payback in fewer than 5 years (ie. willing to pay an extra £4.70 in upfront cost per £1/yr saving in running costs).
  • 90% of mainstream consumers would consider a Battery Electric Vehicles as a main car if its range was increased to 300 miles or a PHEV with 100 miles of range; while 50% would consider a BEV if the range was 200 miles.
  • Younger men (under 34) most likely to adopt PHEVs, middle-aged (40-60 years old) male or female most likely to adopt BEVs, older women (over 60) least likely to adopt PHEV or EV.

The Impact

To put the UK on track towards Net Zero carbon emissions, low emission vehicles need to become mainstream and the CVEI study has produced the most comprehensive picture so far of the issues facing the transition to an electric powered era of vehicular transport in terms of consumer choice.

  • The CVEI project significantly influenced a new report, ‘Smarter Charging: A UK Transition to Low Carbon Vehicles’, released by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI). It suggests that now is the time to lay the foundations for extensive access to vehicle charging, and effective, customer-focused charging management – or smart charging – to prevent charging becoming a barrier to mass-market uptake.
  • The CVEI project has also significantly influenced the Government appointed Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce which is being led by Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) and chaired by Energy Systems Catapult chief executive Philip New. The EVET report back to Government in mid January 2020: Energising our Electric Vehicle Transition referenced CVEI evidence in regards to The Smart Grid and Smart Charging and on Putting Consumers First.
  • The CVEI modelling tool and datasets – are now owned by the Catapult and can be used to better understand the uptake of cars and vans, transport infrastructure needs, plus insight on consumers, batteries, charging and policy including taxation.


In referring to CVEI evidence, the Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce report stated:

“… if EV charging infrastructure is designed and operated as an integrated part of the developing smart grid, smart charging has the potential to deliver savings to 2050 of up to £6.5 billion in network reinforcement and system operating costs.”