An ever-increasing number of drivers are choosing electric or hybrid vehicles and with the Government set to ban the sale of all brand-new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 this trend will continue to grow year on year.
The popular and supportive Motability Scheme now has a number of electric vehicles available for its scheme participants ranging from small about town cars, to larger SUV’s and WAVs able to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, lifts and ramps.
Some of the major car brands, have in early 2021, made bold statements as to their vehicle portfolio in the next few years. JLR has stated that they will only offer new electric vehicles from 2025 with Volvo hot on their heels citing 2030. As there seems to be no escaping the growing number of EV’s on our roads we provide a little helpful info on what it truly means for disabled drivers.
The beauty of electric vehicles is that the search for disability and wheelchair friendly fuel stations will be eradicated, and as the popularity of EV’s grows, the infrastructure to support charging whilst you are out and about will become a whole lot easier too.
Whilst there had been some negative press towards the end of last year many of the charging point producers, installers and operators are now ensuring charging points are wheelchair accessible and that simple considerations are made such as dropped kerbs, position of charging technology and that the weight of the cables and other important factors are taken into account to ensure the accessible network is more robust.
If you use your car for work, many workplaces are beginning to support their staff by the installation of charging points. Furthermore, places such as railway stations are also appreciating the benefits of having charging points for their commuters with an increasing number of stations providing several points.
But the most important part of effective charging is having a charging point at home. With many EV’s able to do upwards of 200 miles per charge depending on traffic conditions, speed etc, plugging in every day at home is sufficient and practical for many.
To facilitate this there is currently a Government plug-in grant available through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) which helps drivers install one of the fast-charging solutions at home. Proven to be much safer than the three-pin ‘trickle charge’ option, the Government are actively supporting home charging point installation wherever possible.
Given that it is only just over a two years ago since the first accessible charging point was installed we know that there is still much to do. But just like anything, if the demand is there, providers generally deliver.
Having home charging options also means that the car is able to maintain a high level of charge to give driver confidence when undertaking short to mid length journeys. It is perfectly possible to have a mobility vehicle as an EV – all you need to do is ensure you don’t run out of power, just as you would ensure you didn’t run out of petrol or diesel in days gone by.
However, perhaps the greatest challenge that disabled and WAV drivers face is the challenge of ensuring accessible charging points are available. Currently online portals such as ZapMap and PodPoint don’t actually specify whether the point is accessible and for whom – for us this is the greatest improvement that could be made to ensure that disabled and WAV drivers embrace EVs as desired by the Government and car manufacturers.
Electric and the environment
It’s fair to say that some of the practicalities are still being ironed out to make electric motoring easy and completely hassle free for all, not just disabled drivers, however the environmental benefits are unquestionable.
They emit less greenhouse gases and air pollutants and as the UK continues its shift towards energy generation from other natural sources rather than fossil fuels, the way in which we charge them is also better for us and better for the planet.
One area that is still requiring some more in-depth research is the effect that powered lifts for wheelchair users will have on the battery life of electric vehicles. We expect that, because our lifts use relatively little power anyway, that the effect will be small.
Although, whatever your current viewpoint electric vehicles are here to stay. They are the future of motoring across the globe and we all need to find ways to make the entire system work for us all – manufacturers, charging company’s, owners and drivers.