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Call to make public EV charging safer for women

New research from Keele University illustrates the concerns of women when using public electric vehicle charging points. The University interviewed 16 female electric car drivers and found that most were concerned about charging late at night in dark, poorly lit, unsheltered, and relatively isolated areas. Many felt “trapped” inside their vehicles while charging, especially if there were no basic amenities close by.
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4 October 2022

ONLINE car marketplace heycar has launched a campaign calling for Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan to introduce minimum personal safety standards at electric vehicle (EV) charging locations.

The call aims to help protect women and vulnerable users while charging their EVs at any of the 33,000 public chargers across the UK.

The standard would require EV charging locations to be well-lit with monitored CCTV cameras and emergency contact buttons as a minimum. EV locations that meet this standard would be identified with a kitemark so drivers know they can use them with confidence at night or when they are alone.

The campaign follows a survey of drivers which found that 80.3% feel vulnerable when charging their electric car, 62.9% don’t think security measures at charge points are adequate and 88.5% have chosen not to use a charge point because they felt unsafe at the location. Respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of a kitemark recognising EV charging locations with the best safety standards.

Public charging is a ‘game of roulette’

Sarah Tooze, Consumer Editor at heycar, said: “Personal safety at public EV charging points is an issue for all EV drivers, but women feel particularly vulnerable. At the moment it can feel like playing roulette – drivers don’t know what they’ll find when they arrive. The charge point could be at the back of an empty, dimly-lit car park with no security cameras and it may not even be working – potentially leaving them stranded if they don’t have enough charge.

“The issue is particularly pressing given that the clocks go back at the end of this month meaning that more women are likely to find themselves charging in the dark.”

Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS) UK is backing the campaign.

Emma Loveday, Senior Fleet Consultant at VWFS UK, said: “Women can be vulnerable when they use an electric charging point without safety and security measures. There is a risk of women being subjected to unwanted behaviour and, worse, being attacked. The murders of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and Ashling Murphy are still present in our minds. I haven’t heard of any incidents involving violence against women at charging points, but I am not naïve enough to think it won’t ever happen. It’s a case of when, not if.”

Keele University research reveals women’s safety concerns

New research from Keele University illustrates the concerns of women when using public electric vehicle charging points. The University interviewed 16 female electric car drivers and found that most were concerned about charging late at night in dark, poorly lit, unsheltered, and relatively isolated areas. Many felt “trapped” inside their vehicles while charging, especially if there were no basic amenities close by.

Academics at Keele University also noted that a disabled woman could be “doubly vulnerable” if charging at an unlit location and where accessibility to and from their vehicle to reach charging cables was more difficult. In addition, they noted how men may also feel uncomfortable when charging in these circumstances.

Consequently, the women the researchers spoke to would like public charging locations to be: well-lit and appropriately located; have CCTV cameras; have online support for charging available ‘on-tap’; be close to amenities such as toilets and a coffee shop; and have parent and child EV spaces.

Professor Simon Pemberton, a member of the research team at Keele University, said: “To date, most of the focus around public EV charging has been on the nature of chargers and charging capacity rather than the actual needs and experiences of different user groups – such as women – in relation to public EV charging. Our research begins to address this knowledge gap and the challenges that need to be overcome to facilitate a just transition to zero emission vehicles in the UK.”

Why now is the time to act

heycar’s campaign is also supported by ChargeSafe, an independent, five-star rating system for public EV charging, based on personal safety and accessibility.

Kate Tyrrell, co-founder of ChargeSafe, said: “Ultimately, with the Government’s 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars we are all going to end up driving electric. But right now there is an opportunity to make sure that women are protected when charging their cars before the infrastructure is even built out.

“There are currently about 33,000 public chargers – about 10% of the 300,000 we need in the UK by 2030 – so if we can create a standard within the next two years, before the installation of chargers really takes off, then we can make a very positive impact on women’s safety on a nationwide scale.”

heycar’s Tooze added: “At the moment the onus is on EV drivers reporting existing charging locations as unsafe through platforms such as ChargeSafe, and there is no guarantee that the chargepoint network operators will take any steps to address those concerns.

“Local authorities and the landlords of charge point sites also have fundamental roles to play in what safety and security measures are at charge points locations. With so many different stakeholders Government intervention is needed to ensure standards are set.”

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