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Lack of accessible EV charging main barrier for disabled drivers

UKPN is working with Motability to understand the barriers disabled drivers who park on-street face. Image: UKPN.

UKPN is working with Motability to understand the barriers disabled drivers who park on-street face. Image: UKPN.

A new survey has found that while the majority of disabled drivers plan to switch to an electric vehicle (EV) in the next decade, a lack of accessible charging infrastructure is a barrier for many.

UK Power Networks (UKPN) surveyed 1,000 disabled customers, finding that more than two thirds plan to make the switch in the next ten years. However, 71% said the main reason they couldn’t get an EV was due to a lack of accessible charging infrastructure - mirroring previous research into this area.

Charging infrastructure often includes parking bays that are too small, with few dropped kerbs, making it difficult to get close to charging equipment and charging point plugs that are too high to reach for wheelchair users.

On-street charging is a particular focus for UKPN, having been working with charity Motability to understand the barriers disabled drivers who park on-street face.

The distribution network operator (DNO) is leading the Enable project, which is designed to create a coordinated approach with local authorities and other key players to overcome these barriers.

The project has engaged with over 20 local authorities, OZEV, Transport for London and chargepoint installers to understand the current process of rolling out on-street charging for disabled customers.

It is currently estimated there will be 745,000 Blue Badge holders across UKPN’s areas of London, the east and south east by 2030, with over half of these to rely on on-street chargers.

The findings of the Enable project are to be used to inform local authorities’ Local Area Energy Plans, with this ensuring accessibility needs are considered when rolling out public chargepoints.

Additionally, sharing data and knowledge helps model when and where demand will emerge as disabled parking bays are electrified, allowing the DNO to invest and liaise with people in the right locations to make sure the electricity network is ready to meet that demand and that accessibility needs are taken into consideration.

Fellow DNO Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has also been conducting a project - Equal EV - looking at the barriers to EV charging and the viability of technology to remove barriers for people with disabilities and vulnerabilities such as high levels of anxiety.

A report was published earlier this year as part of the project, which amongst other things, detailed the role DNOs can play in supporting disabled and vulnerable EV drivers through the Priority Services Register (PSR), ensuring their personal mobility is not compromised by inability to charge their EV during power cuts.

Suggestions included setting up a community of first responders, enabling PSR households to use vehicle-to-home to provide back-up power for their dwelling and providing a temporary EV charging service.

Findings from UKPN's Enable project have also been fed into an Accessible Transport Information Hub. This is to help customers, local authorities and other interested parties get the information they need for accessible charging infrastructure.

Ian Cameron, head of customer service and innovation at UK Power Networks, said the survey has given the DNO a deeper understanding of its customers, which is the first step in ensuring no one is left behind in the transition to net zero.

"Using these insights we are advocating for accessible charging infrastructure, and are collaborating to put in place practical solutions that will make a material difference to people’s lives.”

New accessibility standards for EV charging are currently under development by the British Standards Institute, having been commissioned by Motability and the Department for Transport last year.

Current± took an in-depth look at the current levels of accessibility in the EV charging rollout and what more must be done to boost this earlier this week.

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