As the automotive industry pushes on ahead of the production of electric vehicles and charging points, disabled motorists face the harsh reality of being left behind. Quadrant Transport investigates how the lack of accessibility will impact the lives of disabled motorists.
The Government has set ambitious plans to enforce a petrol and diesel ban by 2030. However, many disabled motorists are concerned that lack of accessibility will leave them without a form of transport as diesel and petrol cars are phased out of UK production.
Quadrant Transport spoke to Alan Norton, a disabled motorist and chairman of DMUK to explore this issue. He started off by explaining the physical issues with integrating wheelchair access in EVs.
He said: “The main problem I see is the vehicles that are out there now have a large capacity of batteries that tend to be under the floor of the vehicles. If they do modifications for wheelchair access or special seating those batteries might get in the way.”
Double header discrimination
While Alan highlighted important issues surrounding the manufacturing processes surrounding EVs, he also explained how lack of access to charging points leaves disabled motorists excluded from using them. “The current ones [charging points] are so dangerous,” Alan told Quadrant Transport.
Current charging points include wires from stations to the car that often take up room on the path. This can be a problem for wheelchairs users and other disabled motorists. “It is a worrying trip hazard. What we are trying to do is push the government to put in rules and legislation. Just like all buildings should have wheelchair access, EVs and charging points should too.”
As it currently stands there is no Government legislation to ensure disabled motorists have accessibility to all charging points in the UK. Alan feels like this is unlikely to happen. He said, “It makes sense to make the legislation now, compared to introducing it and creating more costs making charging points accessible.”
They have the power to write the rule book. We should be at the forefront of these decisions being made
“They have the power to write the rule book. We [disabled motorists] should be at the forefront of these decisions being made. Being out there and giving true reflective situations of what disabled people’s needs are and more importantly what is not there. There is an unconscious bias, they don’t always think it through.”
This is where charities such as Disabled Motorists UK (DMUK) play their part to give disabled motorists a voice in the transport sector to ensure their voices are heard. They are doing this through their Equal EV Project.
Quadrant Transport spoke to Graham Footer, Chief Executive at DMUK to discuss their Equal EV project. Graham said “At DMUK we are trying to push the government to look at our concerns. We also need the motoring organisations on our side as well.”
Charities desperate for their voices to be heard
The Equal EV project is led by SSEN and Connected Kerb to ensure that disabled motorists are not left behind in the green movement in the transport industry. Graham explained “We are there on-hand to advise on an accessibility point of view. We are at the end of Phase One of the project and it’s about to move into Phase Two now.”
Disabled motorists currently make up 5% of the motoring public. These 2.5 million drivers are having to transition across to EVs too, but with greater difficulty.
Graham explained: “It has to change because, at the end of the day, The Equality Act will dictate that it must change. We are trying our best to work with the EV industry to ensure that accessibility is on their list and on their radar and all the infrastructures that go in is accessible.”
Quadrant Transport put our findings to Highways England. They replied stating: “Our road network provides links to communities and businesses and contributes to the UK’s national wellbeing and economic growth. We aim to ensure our services are fair and accessible to people.”
Adding to this, they explained that they do this by providing: “more accessible infrastructure such as changing places at motorway service areas and providing information about the accessibility of the network.”
A DfT spokesperson told Quadrant Transport: “We want to support all drivers to transition to electric vehicles. We are working closely with the charity Motability, whose scheme already offers more than 60 models of low emission vehicles, on possible standards for public EV charging.”
To support new innovative changing technologies, the DfT has invested nearly £10 million in wireless projects.