Electric vehicle ownership is snowballing and in the UK there are more electric cars on the road than ever before. Public charging infrastructure is increasing at a rapid rate and there are now more than 30,000 charging devices across the country. But, how easy is charging an electric car?
One of the brilliant parts of driving and owning an electric car is that EV chargers can be built pretty much anywhere. Plus, unlike conventional fuel stations which are in decline, the Government and local authorities are dedicated to improving the public network.
With that being said, the current public network does have some issues. EV owners will know some of the issues that can pop up when looking to charge an electric car, including charge points being broken or unavailable. There’s also some issues with drivers of petrol or diesel vehicles blocking EV charge points!
As a result, the flexibility of EV charging locations has become somewhat of a catalyst – especially for women travelling alone. Over the past few years, there have been a number of highly publicised cases of violence against women and femicide. Undoubtedly, there have been growing fears among women travelling alone.
Charging an electric car as a lone driver
When EV drivers find themselves low on range late at night without a working charge point, it can be a seriously scary situation. Especially, when charge points are often located in dull, unlit and secluded areas.
Kate Tyrrell, Co-Founder and CEO of ChargeSafe, has found herself in similar situations. After receiving an all-electric Hyundai Kona as a company car in September 2020, Kate regularly makes long journeys for work. In one case, she was travelling back home at roughly 11pm and needed to charge.
Despite Kate’s eager planning, the charge point she drove to wasn’t working. She then checked the ZapMap app to find another nearby charger. Thankfully, there was one located close by in a Lidl car park. However, when Kate made the short journey there the charge point was, again, not working.
In an attempt to get home, Kate decided to phone the EV charge point support team to see if they could get the charger up and running. By this point, it was nearing midnight and Kate was still an hour away from home. Unfortunately, the operator was not able to get the charge point working.
Despite only having 22 miles left in her Kona, Kate decided to drive 24 miles to the nearest Gridserve station. While there were other charge points close, she knew the Gridserve charge point would be working. And, it would be quick. After finally charging her electric car, Kate was left miles out of her way, but began making the journey home.
This is an issue that has been echoed by female EV drivers across the country, including TV presenter Maddie Moate and Tish Cahatten, Electroheads presenter. So, who is policing the safety of EV charging stations?
What can we do to improve the situation?
Right now, there is a major lack of transparency regarding the maintenance, accessibility and safety of electric vehicle charge points. EV charging operators have a big role in improving the reliability of the public network, but it isn’t all down to them.
At the moment, there isn’t any legislation or legal requirements in place to ensure EV charge points are suitable. This means that councils, supermarkets, manufacturers, installers and a whole range of other people have a part to play in making EV chargers safe and accessible.
ChargeSafe provides an online rating system which judges charge points on their location, accessibility, environment and functionality. They hope to provide better visibility to EV drivers on what public charging infrastructure is available.
While all electric vehicle charging stations are inspected regularly, ChargeSafe is keen to highlight the difference between day and night time inspections. A charge point could seem perfectly safe during daylight but that doesn’t mean lone drivers would feel safe charging an electric car there in the dark, overnight.
Likewise, charities such as Motability are working to improve disability access to public electric vehicle charge points. The organisation would ideally like for a set of universal standards to be introduced by the Government which would require accessibility, safety and maintenance to be considered prior to installing the charge point.
A pressing issue
As the uptake of electric vehicles has been quickly rising over the last year, it’s important for these challenges to be considered and resolved quickly. 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 08/06/2022.