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I've reviewed dozens of electric cars as Travel Editor at T3, everything from the affordable Renault Twizzy to the sensible Volkswagen ID.3 and the luxurious Mercedes EQS to the neck-breakingly quick Audi e-Tron GT.
Up until recently, I've been relying on public charging points to charge the vehicles, which is inconvenient at best, and unreliable at worst. So when Hive approached me to review its new Hive EV Charging box, I jumped at the chance and got it installed at home.
Hive EV Charging is a smart home charger for your electric vehicle. It includes installation from a British Gas electrical engineer and adds smart charging features via the Hive app.
It's not an understatement to say that it's completely changed how I view electric vehicles, as it's now so easy to recharge them and even more convenient than going to get petrol in an ICE car.
Here's how I got on with the Hive EV Charger.
Hive EV Charging review: Installation
I’ve reviewed this entire Hive EV Charger process, from ordering it online to charging an Audi e-Tron GT on my driveway, so I feel like I’ve got a pretty good understanding of the entire process.
It starts with an online questionnaire that determines whether you’re eligible for a Hive EV Charger. You’ll be asked simple questions such as ‘Do you own your home or have permission from the homeowner to have an EV charger installed?’ and ‘Do you have a driveway or off-street parking next to your property?’
During this process, you’ll be asked to send Hive a few images of where you want the charging box installed and of your fuse box.
If you’re eligible, then Hive will arrange a video call with you. Mine was around two weeks after completing the initial online purchase. During this call you’ll walk someone from Hive around your house, they’ll ask to see things like your oven, your boiler, and to check your water supply is earthed. Basically, they just want to check whether any extra work needs to be completed before the EV charging box is installed. The person I spoke to was very polite and patient, despite my phone constantly disconnecting during the call.
The wall box installation was then booked for around two weeks later.
The installation is being handled by British Gas, which claims to have one of the largest networks of EV charger installers in the country, with thousands of trained EV installers across the UK.
It’s worth noting that even though British Gas install the EV charger, you don’t need to be a British Gas energy customer. For example, I’m with OVO, and that didn’t cause any problems with the installation.
On the morning of the installation, the British Gas engineer will let you know what time they expect to arrive. Once they do, installation takes around 2.5 hours, and, at some point during that time the electricity may have to be switched off. As I has the charger installed inside my garage, in the same room as the fuse box, the installation time was actually much quicker than 2.5 hours.
Once the installation, which involves mounting the wall box and routing cables from the fuse box, is complete, the engineer will walk you through setting up the EV charger in the Hive app. They will also make sure it’s working correctly.
Hive states it usually takes between 2-4 weeks for your EV charger to be installed.
Several weeks after the EV Charging Box was installed my Distribution Network Operator (DNO) came to upgrade my home’s main fuse, as the old 60 amp fuse wasn’t enough to handle the extra draw from the electric charger. Luckily this is all handled and organised by Hive.
Hive EV Charging review: Hardware
With Hive EV Charging, you'll get a 7.4kW Alfen Eve Single S-line charger. It’s a fairly standard looking white box with a single LED indicator light on the front. It’s not the most attractive electric charger I’ve seen, but it’s not the ugliest one I’ve seen either.
It measures 370 x 240 x 130mm.
When buying the charger you can choose to have it untethered, which means you’d use the cable that comes with your car, or tethered, which has a 5-metre cable permanently attached.
The tethered option has a Type 2 connector, which is suitable for almost all of the latest electric vehicles and costs an extra £85. I’d say it’s an option well worth having, as I find getting the charging cable in and out of a car boot really annoying and clumsy.
You have to option to increase the tethered cable to 8-metres once you’ve spoken to one of Hive’s engineers. This costs an extra £59.
Its 7kW charging capacity will fully charge an average battery from empty in around eight hours – depending on the size of your car's battery.
The simple LED on the front shows white when it’s ready to use, green when the cable is connected, light blue when the charger is communicating with the vehicle or when charging is complete, dark blue when it’s charging, and red when there’s an error. It’s all fairly straightforward, and you can also check what the charger is doing in the Hive app, which we’ll get onto in a bit.
The Alfen unit has a weather rating of IP55 and comes with a 3-year warranty.
If I had to criticise one thing about the physical wall box, it’s that I’d have liked to have a few different colour options, or at least a black option alongside the white.
Hive EV Charging review: How does it work?
If you have a tethered charging cable, as I do, then using the Hive EV Charger is incredibly simple.
Start by unravelling the charging cable from the charger and then plugging it into your vehicle. The light on the charger will turn green, then light blue. The app will then show the charging session has begun and the light on the charger will turn dark blue. It’s that easy.
When you’ve finished charging, simply unplug the charging cable and wrap it back around the charger.
Hive EV Charging review: App
Where things get really interesting is with the Hive app, which allows you to do all manner of smart things with the EV Charging box.
For a start, you can sync Hive EV Charging with your energy tariff, allowing you to simply plug your car in and it'll automatically charge up when your electricity's at its cheapest. Now, obviously, this could be done manually in the car settings, but I found it’s much easier when it’s all handled in the app.
Hive EV Charging works with most UK energy tariffs, including specialist EV ones, and it's easy to update if you switch providers. You do have to manually input when the peak and off-peak times are, but that’s an easy, one-time process.
If you tell the app how much you pay for electricity as well then it will show you exactly how much you're spending in pounds and pence, as well as give you a weekly and monthly breakdown of your charging history.
According to Hive, charging during off-peak periods isn't just cheaper, it's greener too, as there’s more chance you're using electricity from renewable sources.
If you do want to charge in peak times, however, Hive will let you know how much it'll cost – so there'll be no nasty surprises on your energy bill.
The Hive app also lets you check when your car is plugged in and charging up, and you can get real-time updates on your charging speed.
The thing I find most useful about the app is the notifications, particularly the notification that my car has finished charging.
My charger is located inside so it’s not an issue for me, but a popular function that the Hive app is missing is the ability to ‘lock’ the charger, to stop people from ‘stealing’ your power.
Now on to the price… You’ll get free use of the Hive app for three years after installation, and after that, it's just 99p per month to continue using the advanced features. Of course, you can choose not to pay and still access the basics for free.
Hive EV Charging review: Ecosystem
Of course, the benefit to this charger being part of the Hive ecosystem is that you can control your whole home in an easy-to-use app.
As part of the review Hive also set me up with cameras, bulbs and sensors, so from the same app, I can turn my hallway lights on, check the security camera, and see whether my car is charging.
You can also set up ‘actions’, so, for example, when I open my garage door to plug my car in, the garage light will automatically turn on.
The app is very easy to use and has so far worked flawlessly. It’s not the fastest or most advanced smart home platform out there, but it works reliably.
Hive EV Charging review: Price
Okay, so what about the price? The Hive EV Charger starts at £949 and is available to order from the Hive website. That price includes the charger, installation and complete control from the Hive app for three years.
At the time of writing, you can apply for the OZEV grant, which is a government scheme that contributes £350 to the cost of your EV charger and installation, bringing the cost down to £599.
However, on 1st April 2022, a new scheme comes into place which will help apartment owners and tenants with the cost of their EV charger, but homeowners with off-street parking will no longer qualify.
After the initial three years, it's 99p per month to continue using the advanced features in the app.