Going Electric?

Picture of a RiDC panel member in a wheelchair using an electric car charging point
Eric Harris
2 Jun 2021

At the back of many motorists’ minds, there’s a nagging question: should my next car be electric?

Increasing numbers are saying yes.

Electric vehicle (EV) sales are accelerating rapidly, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures for September 2019 showing a 236.4% rise year-on-year. The UK Government wants phase out new sales of diesel and petrol cars and vans as soon as possible and is seeking consultation in achieving this by 2035 - 2040.

There’s no doubt that this acceleration is in part being driven by increased awareness and fears about the climate crisis (we are not sure what the additional impact of COVID-19 will be). But while we know that EVs are greener than traditional internal combustion engine cars, going electric for disabled people is not just driven by environmental or costs factors.   

Our latest research, funded by Motability, into electric cars and the charging infrastructure shows that the needs of disabled drivers are being ignored. 

Download the full research report

Download a presentation of the findings 

Download our future actions

Read the report for more detail on what we discovered but by way of illustration, in January 2020 the first fully accessible electric charging point in the UK was unveiled.

As of 24th April 2020 there are over 31,148 electric car charging connectors at 11,278 locations across the UK. That represents 0.003% of charging locations in the UK that have been designed to be accessible to disabled drivers.

Disabled drivers who are thinking about getting an electric and want to be good citizens can’t.

“I really wanted an electric car but that was no good for me, it was just impossible, I couldn’t do it”.

This was the view of one of the participants at a workshop where we tested the accessibility of charging points.

The research consisted of three main elements: desk research, survey and consumer workshops which were designed to investigate the accessibility, suitability and impact of electric vehicles and the supporting infrastructure for disabled motorists.

The desk research and fieldwork were undertaken during the summer and autumn of 2019.

The main findings from this research are:

  • There is a lack of consideration of disabled motorists as users or potential users of electric vehicles
  • The existing charging points infrastructure is not accessible for a large proportion of disabled people with mobility or dexterity impairments
  • An increase in anxiety can lead to changes in motoring behaviour culminating for some people in a loss of independence
  • Many assistive aids such as hoists, ramps and heaters will have a negative impact on electric vehicle’s range.

Motability logo - funder of this researchThe main recommendations are:

  • There should be a concerted effort to influence policy at a local and national level to be more proactive in accommodating the needs of disabled motorists.
  • In-situ usability testing of the main types of charging stations should be undertaken with disabled motorists as users.
  • Manufacturers should undertake usability testing of in-car charging equipment with older and disabled motorists as users.
  • More detailed information is required by disabled motorists to help inform them of the implications before purchasing an electric vehicle.
  • More research is needed into the user experience (UX) of disabled motorists using electric vehicles.