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Blog Post 18 May 2022

How can we ensure the switch to electric vehicles is fair for everyone?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are quickly becoming the new norm, with a recent YouGov poll finding that over two-thirds of motorists are already intending to make the switch in the coming years.

With this widespread adoption beginning to pick up pace, it has never been more important to consider whether everyone has the same opportunity to make the switch to low carbon transport.

Are everyone’s needs being considered?

An area that has been identified as potentially problematic is whether disabled people are being considered properly during this transition.

In the UK, there are over 14 million disabled people, with 2.35 million actively driving or being driven. This is a significant group that will be impacted by the shift to electric vehicles.

To address this problem, the UK Government’s Department for Transport tasked Energy Saving Trust to identify potential issues for disabled people. Our research was split into two key areas: whether disabled people have equal access to getting an EV, and whether they had equal access to using an EV.

What are the challenges for disabled people?

Our research found that while disabled people shared the same concerns as all consumers around EVs, they had additional barriers to overcome related to their specific disability.

When it came to getting an EV, we found that:

  • People who required specialist modifications or adjustments to a vehicle found it hard to get information on whether their modification was available for an EV.
  • Some modifications are still not available, and the impact of some electrical equipment like seat hoists, which are used to help people into and out of cars, is still unknown.
  • There is still a lack of affordable multi-purpose vehicles, which have good access and large space for equipment or wheelchairs.
  • Electric wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) are disproportionality expensive compared to petrol or diesel WAVs due to problems related to where the battery is located and electric ramps.

There were different challenges for disabled people using EVs. These included:

  • For many disabled people, range is a serious concern, as their vehicles could be required for hospital visits, and being left stranded could have serious consequences on mental or physical health.
  • Public chargepoints are often not designed with disabled people in mind, meaning there’s a shortage of chargepoints for those who rely on public infrastructure.
  • Chargepoint locations are inaccessible for many disabled people, as there are often no dropped kerbs, inadequate lighting, small parking bays, and poor cable management systems.
  • There’s not enough information about accessible chargepoint infrastructure, which makes planning journeys even more difficult for disabled people, who already need to consider more factors than others.

For more information on these barriers, please have a read of our report which goes into more detail. 

How can we improve the experience for disabled people?

While there are several issues associated with EVs and their necessary infrastructure, action is being taken. Motability and the British Standards Institute (BSI) have co-developed new guidance for chargepoint installers, operators and local authorities to follow, to ensure that chargepoints installed meet a range of accessibility criteria.

We recently reviewed this guidance and were pleased to see the level of detail that has been considered, with it addressing issues around chargepoint design, built environment design, as well as data and digital tools considerations.

What’s next?

The next challenge is to take these design standards and integrate them into infrastructure strategies, to help increase the number of accessible chargepoints across the UK.

At Energy Saving Trust, will be including this guidance in our support for local authorities and landowners, and will encourage their use where possible when the full guidance is released this summer.

We are pleased to see that some chargepoint operators have already started to change their designs to be more inclusive and help those with certain disabilities access charging.

For example, Osprey has considered accessibility in its latest EV chargepoint design, with the new cables featuring counterweights to make them easier to use for those with mobility and dexterity disabilities.

Last updated: 16 May 2022