SSEN first electricity network to explore EV accessibility for people with disabilities

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has today published a report as part of its project Equal EV, outlining the key barriers and challenges in electric vehicle (EV) uptake for vulnerable and disabled motorists. The project will now examine potential solutions for addressing the obstacles identified and how different services can best support vulnerable and disabled drivers in the EV transition.

Transport is the UK’s highest emitting sector, accounting for around a third of UK carbon emissions annually. Both the UK and Scottish Governments have set ambitious targets to address this, including banning the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030, and are seeking to accelerate the transition to decarbonised transport.

With approximately 2.9 million blue badge holders in 2020 in the UK, Equal EV is examining the barriers and challenges vulnerable and disabled motorists face in the transition to EVs and how to best address them. As part of the Project’s first phase, and alongside project partner Disabled Motoring UK, a comprehensive literature review and interviews were undertaken with disabled and vulnerable motorists, and automotive industry experts and organisations. Four primary barriers to EV uptake were identified:

  • Accessibility of chargepoints - to ensure drivers can access and use chargepoints
  • Costs - including high upfront costs and additional costs for modifications
  • Range anxiety - including ensuring motorists do not become vulnerable if EVs run out of charge
  • A lack of interoperability impacting consumer experience - different manufacturers and charging compatibilities requiring drivers to seek specific guidance and support

Whilst some of the barriers identified are similar to those commonly identified by other drivers, the report has demonstrated the need for additional provisions and considerations to address accessibility and mobility barriers. For example, whilst drivers may be concerned with EV range, few would need to take into consideration the accessibility of different EV chargepoints, such as the weight of cables, height of charging stations, and suitability of parking arrangements.

The Report’s findings are summarised into three key areas for industry, manufacturers, and operators to address. First, implementing common regulation and standards in charging equipment available to reduce the number of incompatible and costly offerings. Second, ensuring common standards are available at chargepoints, such as designated parking spaces, dropped kerbs, and equipment being accessible for disabled and vulnerable motorists. Finally, the report identifies a need for collaborative action between industry, government, network operators and stakeholders in addressing these barriers and obstacles.

SSEN is strongly committed to supporting a cost-effective, secure, and inclusive transition to net zero. This means ensuring opportunities are open to all customers and infrastructure is developed in a fair and accessible manner.

The next phase is bringing together different stakeholders, such as automotive and chargepoint industry groups and manufacturers, and national and local governments, to identify opportunities, gaps, and different stakeholder responsibilities. Areas being examined include home charging, using EVs as a back-up power supply for a house, vehicle-to-grid export solutions, and ensuring public chargepoints and chargepoint equipment are accessible. As part of this, the learnings from the Project’s first phase are being shared with industry stakeholders and the automotive industry, government, and the energy sector.

Lisa Doogan, Head of Customer Service and Stakeholder Strategy at SSEN said:

“We are committed to supporting our customers in a fair and equitable transition to net zero. With millions of blue badge holders throughout the UK, Equal EV is delivering key findings for how vulnerable and disabled motorists can be supported in the transition to EVs.

“We are proud to be playing a leading role in the transition to EVs for disabled and vulnerable motorists. The project’s next phase will seek to address the obstacles and barriers identified and seize the opportunity to create a fair and accessible net zero future for all.”

The full report on Equal EV’s first phase can be found here. Equal EV is an 18-month Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) project which began November 2020 and secured £310,000 in NIA funding.

About the author

Van on rural road

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

We're responsible for maintaining the electricity networks supplying over 3.8 million homes and businesses across central southern England and north of the Central Belt of Scotland. We own one electricity transmission network and two electricity distribution networks, comprising 106,000 substations and 130,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables across one third of the UK. Our first priority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the communities we serve in Scotland and England.

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