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Public EV charging 'failing' disabled drivers, new research finds

Motability and Designability carried out the user engagement to determine the key challenges faced by disabled EV drivers. Image: Getty

Motability and Designability carried out the user engagement to determine the key challenges faced by disabled EV drivers. Image: Getty

The challenges facing disabled drivers when charging an electric vehicle (EV) have been highlighted following user engagement as part of an accessibility project.

National disability charities Motability and Designability have published their findings, having conducted in person sessions at chargepoints, video or telephone interviews and focus groups with disabled people who currently use EVs, those who don’t and their carers, drivers and passengers.

Accessible parking with room to manoeuvre around the vehicle was flagged as a key concern for disabled people, with the charities stating that in a public charging environment, the ability to fully open doors, manoeuvre equipment and use lifts and ramps is paramount.

Users also stressed the importance of having flat, smooth parking spaces with level access, or nearby available dropped kerb access onto pedestrian areas and nearby amenities.

The user engagement found that the different processes to enable charging to take place could be confusing or frustrating for some participants, with issues identified such as the payment process varying and there sometimes being confusing instructions or labelling on chargepoints.

Additionally, the position of the chargepoint in relation to the parking space, using and handling cables, connectors and sockets, waiting for the vehicle to be charged with a particular focus on the availability of accessible facilities nearby and seeking assistance when experiencing difficulties were all highlighted as issues.

The lack of reliable, accessible public charging infrastructure and signposting on accessibility has resulted in many users building significant contingency into their travel plans, the charities said, such as keeping their battery well-charged or planning several possible chargepoints for a single charging occasion.

Alongside this, the use of the vehicle battery to operate hoists, lifts, air condition and heating for medical or comfort reasons could also have a disproportionate effect on the available travel range for disabled people, according to the two charities.

Keir Haines, senior product designer at Designability, said that accessibility needs are wide-ranging, and as such the challenge is now to develop solutions that can accommodate this range.

“It is clear from our research with disabled EV users that public charging solutions are failing them in many ways,” Haines said.

Improving accessibility of EV charging is starting to become more of a focus for the industry, with new accessibility standards for EV charging are currently being developed. Motability and the Department for Transport have commissioned the British Standard Institute for this, with suggested standards including adequate space between bollards, charging units being a suitable height for wheelchair users, the size of the parking bay and the kerb height.

Meanwhile, SSEN recently released a report outlining the key barriers and challenges in EV uptake for vulnerable and disable drivers, with this finding that while these were similar to challenges identified by drivers in general – such as range anxiety and high upfront costs – there is a need for additional provisions and considerations to address accessibility and mobility barriers.

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