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Report 3 May 2023

EV design and disability inclusion report

Report commissioned by Motability

One in five people in the UK live with a disability. And it’s predicted that by 2035, there’ll be 2.7 million disabled drivers or passengers.

Many disabled drivers and passengers rely on cars for their independence and wellbeing. With the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles due to end in 2030, it needs to be easy for everyone to make the switch to electric vehicles (EVs).

Earlier research has focused on how accessible EV charging infrastructure is for disabled drivers and passengers. But less attention has been given to how accessible EVs are.

We carried out research on behalf of Motability to explore the barriers disabled people face when using EVs, with a spotlight on people who use a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV). We’ve also recommended ways to address these barriers and ways to support disabled drivers and passengers.

We carried out surveys with WAV dealerships and people who use WAVs, and we did five in-depth user interviews to understand the different challenges that disabled people face when it comes to the design of EVs.

To explore the main barriers to accessible vehicle design, we interviewed 12 representatives from stakeholders within the automotive industry. We also conducted desk research to give context, explore global trends and look at current practice in vehicle design.

The findings include that:

  • Disabled people’s needs aren’t fully thought about when designing EVs.
  • WAV users have concerns about finding suitable EV models that meet their needs.
  • New technologies and autonomous features don’t consider disabled drivers’ adaptation needs.
  • The locations of the battery and charging socket on EVs are an accessibility design concern.
  • There’s limited communication between the conversion and adaptation industry and vehicle manufacturers.

Our key recommendations to address these challenges are:

  • The conversion and adaptation industry should work together with disabled drivers and passengers and the wider automotive industry to develop and set up guidelines on accessible EV design.
  • Support from the UK Government is essential. In particular:
    • Funding is needed to train the workforce and improve safety while working on EVs.
    • Changes should be made to the zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which will mean that manufacturers will have to sell a number of EVs before 2030. This will offer more certificates for wheelchair assisted base vehicles and encourage the production of suitable vehicles that can be converted.
    • The UK Government should strengthen the plug-in car grant to improve the financial support available to make electric wheelchair assisted vehicles more affordable.

Last updated: 3 May 2023