Are public electric vehicle charging units accessible?

Electric vehicle charging stations

While the UK now has more than 25,000 public charge points, some potential EV drivers and passengers may struggle to use them. If we’re being honest, the discussion as to how accessible public electric vehicle charging stations are hasn’t crossed our mind before at EVision

That’s coming from a place of privilege, as a team of fully able people, we haven’t needed to consider those who may have difficulties. We’re so pleased to see Motability and Designability speaking on Fully Charged Plus this week addressing some of these issues. 

As one in five people in the UK self-identify as disabled, just how accessible are EV chargers? Here at EVision, we believe that the availability and accessibility of electric vehicle charge points is super important. In fact, it might be just as important as the range and convenience of EVs themselves.

We know that the UK has a long way to go if we want to reach carbon neutrality before 2050. Firstly, we need a LOT more people driving electric vehicles. But, we can’t do that without efficient, reliable and usable public electric vehicle charging stations. 

What are some of the current issues?

Those using public electric vehicle charging stations with a disability may face a range of issues. Able bodied people may not realise, but electric vehicle charging stations often have high curbs and heavy cables. Sometimes there are even bollards, which are in place to protect the charge point.

While these may seem like minor inconveniences to some, it can make charging an electric vehicle near impossible, if not actually impossible, to many others. It’s also important to note that you would find many of these struggles at a conventional fuel station. Designing EV charging stations with high curbs is actually completely unnecessary.

All of these make it extremely difficult for disabled individuals to charge their electric vehicle easily. People may also find it tough to charge their EV if they have a vehicle with wheelchair access, a ramp or a lift. These are often in place to help disable passengers out of vehicles. But unfortunately, sometimes there isn’t a lot of space around EV charging stations.

Who is this impacting?

It’s not just disabled individuals who can find this challenging. Imagine juggling charging your electric vehicle with a child on your hip or holding your hand. We can imagine that this isn’t the easiest situation in the world.

Again, the lack of space at electric vehicle charging stations make it hard for some individuals to charge their EVs. In order to see electric vehicles succeed, everyone needs to be able to take part without limitation. 

It’s also important to consider the accessibility of the whole charging station, not just the unit itself. That includes the on-site facilities, such as the toilets. An issue that TV Presenter, Maddie Moate, picked up on when trialing her e-Niro was that many electric vehicle charging stations are in unlit, dark locations. 

When designing electric vehicle charging stations we should consider the potential users and how accessible they are to them. For Maddie, she sometimes felt unsafe when charging her EV. An issue that could be avoided with better lighting and CCTV.

How can we make electric vehicle charging more accessible?

In an effort to make EV infrastructure accessible to all, Motability have teamed up with fellow disability charity Designability, the British Standards Institution (BSI), the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) and UK Power Network. Most importantly, they’re all working with disabled people and focusing on the practical changes. 

A survey of over 17,000 motorists found that 73% believed that charge point spaces should be wheelchair friendly. Meanwhile, 80% of motorists stated they would benefit from a 24/7 call helpline.

Motability’s aim is to create national standards which create a minimum level of accessibility for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This means that those designing EV charging points will have to meet this level before installing them. If this is put into place, it will be the first national accessible charging standards in the world.

At the moment, the uptake of electric vehicles by disabled individuals has been very low. But, it’s imagined that there will be 2.7 million disabled drivers or passengers in the UK by 2035. 

By this point, new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned and most people will have electric vehicles. Within this, Motability predicts that up to half of these disabled individuals will be reliant on public charging infrastructure.

It’s also important to note that EV infrastructure has already begun in the UK, many without considering inclusivity. Ensuring that those designing EV chargers are aware of these issues as early as possible is super important. It would be extremely costly to now remove, and redesign all the charge points in the UK. So, it’s best to consider how we can make future ones more accessible. 

* All information correct as of 14/03/2022.

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