EV Chargers Are Still Inaccessible To Many People With Disabilities

Illustration for article titled EV Chargers Are Still Inaccessible To Many People With Disabilities
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

When infrastructure planners map out the future design of cities around the world, they generally do so with able-bodied folks in mind. Charging networks for electric vehicles have fallen into the same trap, with one-third of people with disabilities in the United Kingdom still struggling to find an accessible charger for their vehicle.

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Those stats are the result of a four-year study conducted by Zap-Map, the UK’s answer to charge station mapping services. The company polled 2,200 EV drivers to gauge how the electric world has been evolving. This year, though, Zap-Map paired with a company called Motability, a charity in the UK dedicated to serving communities of those with disabilities. The goal is to examine how the current charging infrastructure is working for the non-able-bodied community.

The survey revealed a lot of statistics that show we still have a lot of work to do to make the electric world more accessible.

  • One-third of people with disabilities have difficulty locating a charger that meets their needs
  • One in seven of those interviewed noted that the biggest problem they face is the weight of the charging cables
  • Other issues include: the force required to attach the connector, a lack of dropped curbs to provide a ramp near charging points, unsuitable parking

Catherine Marris, Innovation Lead at Motability, responded to the results by saying, We know that one in five people in the UK are disabled and Motability’s recent research estimated that there will be 2.7 million disabled drivers or passengers by 2035, with 1.35 million expected to be partially or wholly reliant on public charging infrastructure. As we approach what will be a transformative energy transition in the UK, there is a robust social and commercial case for ensuring that EV charging infrastructure is accessible for disabled people. If we want to work towards a society and economy that is inclusive for all, then accessibility must be a priority.”

Essentially, this survey will likely be a jumping-off point for EV infrastructure designers in the future. It shows a lack of foresight on the part of many charging planners, something that will require a revamp in the near future.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

halftrackelcamino
Half-track El Camino

I was gonna say that fixing this was as easy as “just” mandating that all accessible parking spaces have a wheelchair-accessible charger by 2030, and then providing grants for small business which might otherwise find the upgrades cost-prohibitive. It sounds like that would only solve half the problem, though.

The problem with the weight of the cables and the force required to insert the charger is a little thornier. Those cables weigh what they do for a reason, after all—you need a certain amount of material in order to safely transmit all that power. Similarly for the insertion force—you need a positive lock to make sure the cable is securely attached, and reducing it would probably require a different connector design and therefore a new charging standard. I’d love to see a single universal (see what I did there?) charging standard get rolled out, but it seems a bit unlikely at the moment.

I think the best we may be able to do, at least until we have automatically-attaching chargers or underground inductive charging pads or something like that is probably going to be to put a call button on the chargers like we do with gas pumps. Push the button for assistance, and the cashier comes out and hooks up your car for you. Not ideal, but at least it would work.

We need to get chargers on those accessible parking spots, though. We need to get chargers on all the parking spots, or at least about half of them. This “three chargers (if that many) up at the very front of the 400-space parking lot” thing we’ve been doing is not going to get us very far. It’s a big project.