13 May 2024 EV Charging, Sustainability

Driving towards inclusivity: Ensuring accessible EV charging infrastructure for all

As electric vehicle (EV) adoption accelerates, the focus must now shift to making charging stations inclusive for drivers of all abilities. From physical accessibility and safety to overall comfort and convenience, addressing these concerns is crucial for encouraging greater EV adoption and creating a sustainable transportation future.

Electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is expanding rapidly across the UK, but amidst this growth, one crucial aspect has often been forgotten about: accessibility.

As the nation gears up for a future dominated by electric transportation, it’s imperative that the transition is inclusive of all drivers, including those with disabilities. Electric vehicle charge point operators (CPOs), in collaboration with landowners and local authorities, bear a responsibility to ensure that public EV charging stations are accessible for everyone, while also prioritising safety, security, and convenience.

Breaking down barriers: The challenges of accessibility at public charging stations

Imagine being a disabled driver needing to charge your electric vehicle, only to encounter barriers that render the charging process nearly impossible. High curbs, heavy cables, poorly labelled charging spots, and a lack of universal payment systems are just some of the challenges faced by all motorists at public charging stations, but especially so those with disabilities.

These obstacles not only inconvenience but also potentially exclude a significant portion of the population from the benefits of electric vehicle ownership. Statistics from the charity Motability emphasise the challenges facing disabled drivers, estimating that by 2035 around 1.35 million disabled drivers or passengers may rely on public charging infrastructure. With half of disabled drivers unlikely to charge at home due to parking constraints, the importance of accessible public charging cannot be overstated.

In the wider sense of the word, accessibility does not just mean making EV charging stations more accommodating for those with disabilities alone. It means ensuring that our public EV charging infrastructure is safe, secure, and convenient for all drivers.

At some UK charging locations across the UK network, for instance, safety concerns have been raised by drivers, with dark and secluded charging stations posing particular risks, especially for individuals waiting alone during the charging process.

Whilst initiatives like HeyCar’s campaign for minimum personal safety standards at chargepoints have gained traction, recognising and addressing these wider issues around accessibility goes beyond just physical wellbeing; it’s about ensuring that all drivers feel comfortable and empowered during their charging experience.

Standards and initiatives: Progress towards inclusive EV infrastructure

Designing inclusive EV infrastructure requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders. Charities like Designability are pioneering human-centred design practices to create innovative, user-friendly charging solutions accessible to all. Meanwhile, the recent launch of the accessible chargepoint standard (PAS 1899:2022) by the British Standards Institution, co-sponsored by Motability and the UK Government’s Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles, marks a significant step towards inclusive EV infrastructure.

But standards alone aren’t enough. Implementation and enforcement are key. While the government encourages adherence to accessibility guidance, it falls short of making it mandatory for all new charging points. However, the House of Lords committee’s recent report highlights the urgent need for accessible charging infrastructure and recommends measures to ensure compliance.

Taking action: Measures for ensuring accessibility across the UK charging network

CPOs like SMS, committed to social and environmental sustainability, are leading by example on this front. Through adherence to accessibility standards and membership of ChargeSafe – the public chargepoint rating system that ranks sites on their overall safety, reliability, and accessibility  – SMS is demonstrating its dedication to ensuring that all drivers, including those with disabilities, feel confident and comfortable when visiting our EV charging sites.

Today, across our growing UK charge point network, we take a range of specific measures to ensure compliance with the specific accessibility requirements of the PAS 1899 standard (and in alignment with our ChargeSafe membership) to ensure the best possible experience for divers. This includes:

  • Implementing a design where chargers are easily accessible without the presence of kerbs.
  • Expanding the space available and incorporating clearly marked protected areas
  • Introducing more accessible hardware options featuring weight-managed cables, low screens, and contactless card payment capability as standard.
  • Transitioning from hoop bollards to post bollards at our in-bay charger sites, with damaged or outdated bollards being replaced accordingly.
  • Adding clear physical labels for each connector type on hardware lacking such identification.
  • Enhancing safety measures by installing security cameras and lighting where feasible, with the consent of landlords, particularly to improve visibility at night.
  • Installing longer bays at sites where space permits, catering to both Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) and customers with trailers or caravans.
  • Planning the installation of more canopies at hub sites to provide weather protection for customers.
  • Collaborating with partner landlords to ensure that all sites include at least some accessible bays, promoting inclusivity in charging infrastructure.

In short, as the UK approaches the phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles, the push for electric mobility must be inclusive. By prioritising accessibility, safety, and convenience in EV charging infrastructure, we can pave the way for a truly accessible and sustainable transportation future

Public EV Charging Whitepaper

A guide for developers, landowners and local authorities on the effective rollout of national public EV charging infrastructure and the importance of the three Rs: Right location. Right time. Right speed.