National disability charities Motability and Designability have published the findings from the user engagement phase of their joint project to make electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in the UK more accessible to disabled people.
The two UK charities have been working together to engage with disabled drivers, passengers and carers to gather detailed feedback to help identify 'what accessible truly looks like' and to fully understand their needs.
Insights were explored through a range of research methods including in person sessions at EV charge points, video interviews and focus groups, with participants sharing their views on making journeys, parking (including ways to pay) and charging their EVs.
Accessible parking with room to manoeuvre around the vehicle was already a key concern for disabled people. In a public charging environment, the ability to fully open vehicle doors, move equipment and use lifts and ramps is paramount.
The research also found that the different processes to enable EV charging to take place could be confusing or frustrating for some participants, with issues identified including the different payment processes and confusing labelling on chargepoints.
The position of the chargepoint, connectors and sockets and finding someone to help when experiencing difficulties were also highlighted as concerns.
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“It is clear from our research with disabled EV users that public charging solutions are failing them in many ways.
“We have seen some examples of good practice that the charging industry can learn from, however usability, reliability and most importantly for disabled people, accessibility is often poor in some, if not all aspects of public charging. Whether it be the parking provision and environment around the charger, the charging unit itself, the presence and clarity of signage and information or the registration and payment process, there are many opportunities for better design solutions.
“It is also clear that accessibility needs are extremely wide ranging - and so the challenge now is to develop solutions that can accommodate the breadth of access needs, to enable as many people as possible to have a convenient and enjoyable public charging experience.”
“Our research identified that by 2035, up to 1.35 million disabled people will be wholly or partially reliant on public charging infrastructure, but that it has not been designed with their needs in mind.
“As the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars approaches it is imperative that disabled people aren’t left behind in the race to install the UK’s charging infrastructure.
“Motability is in a unique position to be able to bring together Government, disabled people, charities, industry and electricity networks to create world leading accessibility standards. The user engagement research conducted by Designability is a crucial step in ensuring that the voices and experience of disabled people is front and centre of this guidance in the future”.
“Whilst it is exciting that the world is forging ahead with electric vehicle infrastructure it is imperative that it is done with inclusivity and accessibility as a core consideration. Up until this point, disabled drivers have largely been an afterthought in terms of EV charging.
“This research has come at a vital time as car manufacturers and EV charging station owners prepare for the sudden and rapid growth of the market. Designability’s human-centred design approach and our experience in working closely with disabled people means we are uniquely and expertly positioned to assist Motability in this important project and ensure that EV charging is accessible to everyone including disabled people.”
“Informing best-practice design for EV charge points will make them more accessible for all. It is hoped that the design guidance shared from this project will have influence throughout the globe as the UK sets the recognised standards in EV charger accessibility.”
Motability’s 40-page research document - User Engagement Report. Accessible EV Charging (Designability) - is available to download from the Motability website.