The journey to a sustainable future is a highly important one, not just across Scotland, but across the whole world.

Ahead of the upcoming COP26 meetings being held in Glasgow in November, we are running a weekly blog series exploring the role of technology in achieving net zero with our Technology Scotland members.

Across the coming weeks, we will be hearing from a wide range of our members on a variety of climate focused topics; taking a deep dive into some of the innovative products created to combat climate change with project focused blog pieces as well as thought-pieces where we will hear from industry experts on the future of technology and its potential applications as we move forward towards a more sustainable future. Plus lots more!

This week we hear from Urban Foresight on the importance of accessibility in electric vehicle infrastructure. With electric vehicles being identified as the more environmentally friendly transport option of the future, it is vital to ensure there are no barriers to access and Urban Foresight explore how inclusivity can be facilitated when it comes to electric vehicles. 

Unlocking Accessibility for Electric Vehicle Use

Are users forgotten in the drive to deliver EV infrastructure?

EV Infrastructure is on the rise with more than 42,000 electric vehicle (EV) charge point connectors across the UK.  This is great news for the economy, environment, and a sustainable future.

However, there are currently over 11 million people in the UK with a limiting impairment or disability. The most common impairments are those that affect mobility, lifting, and carrying.

So how do we include everyone as we develop our EV infrastructure?

Creating Inclusivity

The industry solution for disabled drivers was, for many years, sit in your car, blow the horn and flash your lights. What happens at petrol stations where there’s only one attendant or, increasingly, where it’s not attended at all?

In recent years, apps have started to appear that allow people to book ahead for help to fuel their car, but they’re not perfect – payment can’t be made via them, and not everyone uses a smart phone.

The sector has had decades to resolve the issues of inclusivity and accessibility. Instead of building inclusive design principles into the way petrol pumps and forecourts are developed, they’ve created imperfect add-ons.

Are EVs Different?

Promoted as the fair, green face of transport for everyone.  However, this doesn’t seem to be the case.  Current charging stations have not been designed for those with limited mobility.

For example, charging an EV might require lifting heavy cables or having the agility and strength to push in a charging plug.

Unlocking Access

Urban Foresight has been working with partners for over a year now to improve the accessibility of EV charging infrastructure.

We’ve been talking extensively to disability groups and campaigners, such as the RNIB and Motability, and sector experts like Helen Dolphin MBE. More recently, we’ve been part of a group looking at wider inclusivity challenges.

“It’s essential the rollout of EV charging infrastructure is accessible, not just to meet climate change ambitions, but to ensure all community members can benefit from EV ownership,” –Clare Pennington, project manager at Urban Foresight.

Recently, we’ve started to consider how charging infrastructure isn’t being developed with women in mind. It’s surprising to notice the lack of inclusive design and assumptions about end users—from the way cars are designed and promoted to the physical infrastructure and space around the chargers.

Solving Problems

Urban Foresight is actively working to make EV changing more accessible to all.

We’re developing a more accessible EV charge point and solutions to assist in handling charging cables in partnership with Duku and Dundee City Council.

We’re embedding accessibility of EV charging into Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platforms that we’re developing for Dundee and St. Andrews.

We’re developing a bespoke app to support pre-booking and payment across different charging networks in partnership with Urban Electric.

We’re supporting Plymouth Council in developing guidelines for the introduction of the rollout of the first city-wide EV charging infrastructure, making it as accessible as possible.

Our challenge to the EV sector is we can and should do this better.

Are you a member of Technology Scotland and are interested in being involved in our blog series? Get in touch with [email protected] to find out more.