Charging technology needs to be more accessible says research

Posted: 12 March 2021 | | No comments yet

Research from the RiDC suggests that there is plenty of appetite for electric vehicles among disabled people, but the technology is not accessible enough.

Electric car charging technology - part of government zero-emission funding

Recent research from RiDC (Research Institute for Disabled Consumers) shows that 61 per cent of disabled people would consider buying an electric vehicle only if charging was made more accessible.

The online survey was commissioned by Urban Foresight, which says results show that only 25 per cent of non-EV drivers would agree to considering getting an EV now, compared to 61 per cent if charging was made more accessible. 

The survey had 702 respondents from RiDC’s pan-disability consumer panel, including a large number of older people and those living with a physical impairment which affects their mobility or dexterity – such as arthritis, muscle disease, impaired motor control, recovery from a stroke or needing to use a wheelchair, crutches or other walking aid. 

The research explored various aspects of the charging process, such as removing the charge cable from the car, opening the charge flap/inserting the cable and plugging in the car point, all of which presented barriers to disabled and older drivers. 

  • 54 per cent of respondents felt that lifting the charge cable from the boot and having to then close it would either be difficult or very difficult to do
  • 41 per cent of respondents felt that manoeuvring the cable to the charge point would be difficult or very difficult to do
  • 66 per cent of respondents felt that space or trip hazards/ barriers around the car and charger would either be difficult or very difficult to navigate

This provides further evidence for the call for electric vehicle manufacturers to consider access needs at every step of the design process.

One survey respondent, is Mike Jones, 52, who lives in Wales. A wheelchair user, he has had an electric car since September 2020.

“I wanted an electric car as I am keen to do my bit to protect the environment, and it suits me as I mainly do small journeys,” said Mike.

“I have been disappointed, though, with the lack of public charge points near where I live and when I do get to one, they are often placed far from the other amenities at services which I also need to use.

“The charging bays aren’t designed for wheelchair users and there is usually not much space to manoeuvre. Living in a council-owned bungalow, it wasn’t possible for me to install a charging point at home, so I end up having to drive to my father’s house to charge there, which isn’t ideal.”

Respondents to the survey also highlighted connection points being too high for a wheelchair user, as well as concerns about being able to connect a heavy cable.

The research offered a range of solutions put forward by participants including a built-in retractable cable in the car or charge unit, ensuring the position of the charge flap is accessible and ensuring clear wheelchair access from the car to charge point.

“This research highlights how a lack of user involvement in design has created unnecessary challenges for disabled and older people,” added Gordon McCullough, CEO at RiDC.

“There are 14 million disabled people in the UK and with an ageing population, the number of people with additional needs will only increase. Unfortunately, products continue to be put out to market that do not account for the different ways that we all need use and access them.

“As the suggestions from our panel show, there are always solutions that could enable a much wider customer base. Many challenges can be solved by consulting with the people who are facing them, and using creative and innovative thinking.”

At the beginning of 2020, the first fully accessible electric charging point in the UK was unveiled – which means, according to the research, that just 0.003 per cent of charging locations in the UK have been designed to be accessible to disabled drivers.

In the same year, RiDC undertook research on behalf of Motability into electric cars and their charging infrastructure which showed that there was a clear lack of consideration of disabled motorists as users or potential users of electric vehicles.

“This latest survey shows that there is clear demand, but with UK sales of new petrol and diesel cars due to end by 2030, more work is needed to ensure that the electric vehicle infrastructure is fit for purpose for all our population,” added McCullough.

Related modes

Related cities

Related organisations

Related people