The sale of electric vehicles (EVs) in China, Europe, and the US increased by 160% in the first half of 2021. As reported by Power Technology, the growth in sales represented 26% of the global automotive market’s new sales. EVs evidently are more accessible than ever before, but are they truly accessible to all motorists?
With major brands such as Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen having released or on the way to releasing ranges of EVs, and the UK government’s focus on electrifying roads, new buildings include EV charging facilities, and offering grants for home charging points, you might think that the vehicles are suitable for all motorists. Take a closer look, and it becomes clear that there is still a way to go to accommodate people with disabilities.
Charging Points And Accessibility
Charging points are a potential issue when it comes to the accessibility of EVs. According to AMT, analysis by the Platform for Electromobility in 2021 found that there are 6 EVs per public charging point in Europe.
Last year, Auto Express reported that there are approximately 26,000 public EV chargers in the UK; a number that increases by thousands annually. The number of public charging points clearly isn’t the issue. However, the publication’s research revealed that only a handful of those charging points are located on parking bays that are accessible to people with disabilities.
According to the publication, most network providers could not or refused to say how many of their chargers were at accessible bays. The accessibility of charging points is one of the factors that limit the use of EVs by people with disabilities, but it is not the only factor.
EV Architecture An Issue
EV architecture arguably is the biggest factor regarding accessibility, at least for people with disabilities. The Verge reported that most EVs use “skateboard architecture.” This includes the electric drivetrain, the battery pack, and the electric architecture under the vehicle’s floor.
The area of greatest concern to some people with physical disabilities is the battery pack being under the floor, which makes the floor up to two inches higher than regular or adapted vehicles. Furthermore, the current architecture makes it next-to-impossible to retro-fit EVs with ramps.
The Verge spoke to disability advocate Kelly Dawson about EV accessibility. Dawson has cerebral palsy and, like many others with the disability, can drive a fuel-powered car. While driving an adapted or adaptive EV would not be an issue, getting in and out of one could well be a problem. Dawson explained that the higher floor could make it difficult and potentially unsafe to get into the vehicle.
Long Lead Times
Long lead times are an EV accessibility issue that affects all motorists, and not only those with disabilities. According to AMT, Driving Electric research found that there are long delivery times for EVs manufactured by Audi, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Tesla, and VW. Those times can range anywhere between 10 weeks and 10 months.
Car And Driver reported that the only EV with real potential for accessibility for people with disability, the VW ID.Buzz Electric Van, will be launched in Europe later this year and in the US in 2024. Whether the vehicle will also be subject to long lead times remains to be seen. For now, it’s evident that there’s still a way to go for true EV accessibility.