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Electric vehicle charging must be accessible for all

Is public charging set up for drivers with disabilities? Ian Johnston explores what needs to be done to ensure it is

Electric vehicles (EVs) are more popular than ever. Last year, more Brits bought an EV than in the previous five years combined and in the next decade roughly seven million car buyers are expected to make the switch.

With thousands more EVs on the road, the UK’s charging infrastructure is working hard to catch up. But the government has promised a tenfold increase in the number of chargers by 2030 , meaning that we should be set to see 300,000 chargers in the future. That also means many more disabled drivers using EVs.

By 2035 (the date after which any new car bought in the UK will need to be fully electric) Motability, the national disability charity, estimates there will be 2.7 million drivers or passengers with a disability. And, as many do not have garages and driveways, half of these drivers will be reliant on public electric charging.

Osprey EV charging
Access and space is prioritised at Osprey’s two high-power 75kW chargers, located at The Wharf in Dartford

Drivers with restricted mobility, including pregnant women and older people, will make this number even bigger. With such a fast increase in the number of chargers, it’s important to ensure that charging infrastructure is designed and installed in a way that is both easy and safe for all customers, regardless of age or ability.

With locations ranging from supermarket car parks to fuelling stations, charging sites differ widely but the basics of good, accessible design remain the same. These include sufficient space around the vehicle, an unobstructed route from the car to the charger, visibility of screens in all types of light, simplicity of use with a universal payment method, and a low amount of strength and force required to manoeuvre the charging cable.

It’s also important that chargers are in well-lit areas and, where possible towards the front of car parks nearer facilities, or in busier areas, so that users do not feel vulnerable or isolated while charging.

Accessible chargers are ones built for ultimate ease of use, and which make the charging experience as simple and safe as possible for all users. There are standards being put into place, however. Motability has partnered with OZEV (the Office for Zero-Emission Vehicles) to develop new BSI accessible charging standards for charging bays, that are expected to be published this summer.

Some charging players are already taking action. Osprey Charging, for instance, is working to adhere to these standards for all new sites, and return to upgrade existing sites wherever possible. The company’s mission is to provide safe, reliable, and accessible charging for all. That means well-lit sites, chargers that customers can rely on, and the ability for wheelchairs and anyone with reduced mobility to have the space and access to charge, pay and enjoy its facilities. This should  set the bar for all charging players moving forward.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Ian Johnston is Chief Executive of Osprey Charging, one of the fastest-growing networks of rapid electric vehicle charging points in Great Britain

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