Consumer preferences for automated electric vehicle charging

EV-Flex is a first of kind randomised control trial, delivered in partnership with the The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)


The opportunities that the electrification of mobility presents are well-documented; switching from fossil-fuel powered motor vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) reduces carbon emissions and the adverse effects of combustion engines on air quality. Research covering multiple geographies shows that those exposed to the worst air pollution are more likely to be from low-income groups, and racial and ethnic minorities. The switch to EVs presents a major opportunity to tackle the distributional impacts of the global carbon emissions that come from transport, whilst recognising the ongoing utility of access to transportation for socioeconomic mobility.

Yet without intelligent design, the future energy system could be challenged by issues of mass electrification. Fortunately, EVs can be highly flexible in their operation, especially if they are charged via an automated response to market or grid signals.

The global evidence base for how to incentivise consumers to switch to smart charging systems that are responsive to cheap and clean electricity is currently limited, given the low level of penetration of EVs. Yet sales of electric cars are set to continue increasing globally - nearly one in five cars sold in 2023 was electric - making our ability to understand their potential intelligent use critical.

Field trial

We’re currently running the first randomised control trial that investigates the level of incentive required for a consumer to shift to a managed EV charging tariff. We’re researching:

  1. Consumer preferences for automation tariffs. The costs of switching EV owners to a managed charging tariff, via an empirical assessment of their willingness to accept a regular incentive in exchange for agreeing to managed charging.
  2. The grid and consumer benefits of automation tariffs. This will be explored via an empirical assessment of how the managed charging tariff changes customers’ electricity consumption profile towards half-hours that are lower carbon-intensity and less grid-constrained, and an assessment of the reduction in what consumers pay per month and/or per kWh of electricity they consume.


EV-Flex will run until October 2024; early results will be shared in late 2024 and full results in 2025.

The trial is being funded by The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)’s, King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI). J-PAL aims to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. Launched in partnership with King Philanthropies, K-CAI is J-PAL’s flagship program designed to innovate, test, and scale high-impact solutions at the nexus of climate change and poverty alleviation worldwide. J-PAL’s co-founders Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo were awarded the Nobel Prize in recognition of their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.