Joining forces to make electric vehicles accessible to all 

Accessible cars

More than two thirds of disabled drivers plan to make the switch to an electric vehicle in the next decade, according to the UK’s largest study of disabled drivers. However, many fear they will not be able to charge their EVs at home, with 71% of the 1,000 disabled customers who took part in the survey identifying the lack of accessible charging infrastructure as the main reason they couldn’t get an EV.

UK Power Networks has worked in partnership with the charity Motability to understand the barriers disabled drivers who park on-street face and is leading the Enable project to create a coordinated approach with local authorities and other key players to overcome them.

It is estimated there will be 745,000 Blue Badge holders across London, the East and South East – the areas where UK Power Networks delivers electricity – by 2030, and more than half will rely on on-street chargers if they buy an Electric Vehicle (EV).

Almost 80% of those who took part in the survey said they expect their disabled parking bay to have an EV charge point installed next to it. Current EV charging infrastructure includes parking bays that are too small, 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. As a result, drivers with disabilities are at risk of being left behind in the low carbon transport revolution.

The project has engaged with 20 local authorities, OZEV, Transport for London and charge point installers to understand the current process of rolling out on-street charging for disabled customers. Sharing data and knowledge helps model when and where demand will emerge as disabled parking bays are electrified. As a result, the Distribution Network Operator can 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.

The findings from the project will be used to inform local authorities’ Local Area Energy Plans, ensuring accessibility needs are considered when rolling-out public charge points and everyone can take part in the transition to EVs. Findings from the project have also fed into an Accessible Transport Information Hub, to help customers, local authorities and other interested parties get the information they need for accessible charging infrastructure and help facilitate the transition to electric vehicles.

Ian Cameron, head of customer service and innovation at UK Power Networks, says: “We want to ensure anyone who wants to, can make the switch to an electric vehicle and nobody is left behind in the transition to Net Zero. The first step is gaining a deeper understanding of our customers, which this study has given us. 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.”

Catherine Marris, Head of Innovation at Motability, says: “This research shows that most disabled people are already planning to switch over to EVs, but are being held back by concerns over whether they can readily charge their cars near their homes or near their destinations. Disabled people are more reliant on cars for door-to-door journeys and have far fewer options for travel due to inaccessible transport, so it’s essential that accessibility is designed into EV infrastructure right from the start. Motability is sponsoring the British Standards Institute (BSI) to produce the world’s first Standard on accessible charging, and many organisations will then need to work together to make accessibility a reality – from local councils and distribution network operators to manufacturers and installers.”

Paul Nicholls, Parking Strategy and Contracts Manager at Brighton and Hove City Council, comments: “It’s been a pleasure working with UK Power Networks on the Enable project. Knowledge sharing and engagement with disabled groups is at the heart of the development of accessible charging infrastructures. We’re grateful for the important insights this project has given us.”

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