ACCESSIBILITY AND INCLUSIVITY
EVs for all
The largest fleet in the UK – Motability Operations – faces up to the needs and demands of its drivers when it comes to electric vehicles. By John Challen
No-one needs reminding – especially those reading this publication – that there’s an electric revolution going on. With EV sales up by 19% so far in 2023 – and more than 40% for the whole of 2022 – it’s clear that electric vehicles in all their forms are fast becoming an accepted norm.
Nowhere is that revolution being more keenly felt than with those vehicles run by Motability Operations, the largest fleet in the UK, and the organisation that delivers the Motability Scheme to disabled people across the UK. In the past year, the EV proportion of the Motability fleet has more than tripled – no small number when it serves more than 650,000 customers.
Perhaps that’s inevitable given the wider nationwide picture for EVs, but the story behind that change in the Motability Operations fleet goes much further than those figures suggest, bringing a wholesale change in the mobility landscape for disabled people.
“As a company, we made a commitment in 2021 to remove the barriers for those who wanted an EV, to ensure that Motability Scheme customers weren’t being left behind,” explains Jonathan Jenkins, head of innovation at Motability. “Since then, we have made a £300m investment to drive that change and we’ve seen a dramatic growth in EVs on the Motability Scheme – they’ve grown more than fivefold from the start of 2021 to the end of 2022 and that interest is only increasing.”
Smart charging company Ohme has been one of the official EV charging partners for the Motability Scheme since early 2022.
“Compared to traditional cars, electric vehicles can enable all drivers to enjoy greater mobility, freedom and independence as well as saving money with reduced running costs,” says David Watson, Ohme’s CEO. “At Ohme, putting our customers at the heart of everything we do and building strong relationships are two of our core values, so we feel privileged to be helping the Motability Scheme customers with their move towards electric vehicles.”
A big difference
Watson then expands on what that “greater mobility, freedom and independence” looks like. After having driven an EV for a month, one Motability Scheme customer called Ohme to describe just what a difference it had made to her quality of life. Previously, if she needed to visit the local filling station to fill up with petrol, she would have had to call them and wait for a quiet period before visiting, then have a member of staff to come out and help her to fill up and pay. It became a constant source of stress and frustration.
Since switching to an EV however – and the ability to charge at home at will – she has reported an immeasurable improvement in her quality of life – something that’s impossible for those plain on-paper statistics to quantify. Motability Operations has found that those EV drivers with a home charger cover over 20% more miles than those without.
Before working with Motability, Ohme started a relationship with the disability charity Leonard Cheshire, which is still ongoing, to better understand the needs of all its customers.
“With their decades of experience, Leonard Cheshire helped to supercharge our training scheme to ensure we delivered the best and most inclusive customer service possible,” says Russ Morgan, Ohme’s head of customer service. “We’ve adopted the social model of disability and, as such, are focused on removing barriers for our customers. Our teams will quickly make adjustments, such as only communicating over email or arranging in-home surveys, in order to make the process of getting and using an Ohme charger accessible. We’re constantly learning and evolving our processes and the result has been consistently high customer services results, as seen with our Trustpilot rating of 4.7.”
Public charging for those with a disability is improving too. The BSI’s latest standard (PAS 1899:2022) produced in collaboration with Motability and OZEV, gives site designers, hardware manufacturers and installers, the minimum requirements on how to provide accessible public charge points. This covers everything from the spacing of charge points, their location, their height and numerous other elements of the physical aspects of the environment such as kerb heights.
“In the past year, the EV proportion of the Motability fleet has more than tripled – no small number when it serves more than 650,000 customers”
Osprey has already taken these standards into account with the design of its charging sites and its chargers themselves. That means details such as a level surface with no kerbs, plenty of space around the vehicle (120cm is needed to open a door for access and egress), extra-long bays for wheelchair-accessible vehicles where possible and easily accessible and usable equipment. Talking of equipment, Osprey also uses hardware which removes a lot of the weight of the charging lead, making it easier to use.
As well as meeting the latest regulations on a minimum number of bays for all new sites, Osprey has an upgrade programme for its older sites too, installing extra or higher-power chargers and redesigning the bay layout where possible to improve accessibility.
Gridserve is doing something similar at its latest electric forecourts, with specific wider bays and lowered kerbs. It is also included on the fuelService app to enable drivers to request assistance in advance when charging if needed. Gridserve itself also constantly audits its sites for improvements and also to inform future designs.
“Accessibility is key to ensuring that the transition to electric is inclusive for all,” said Toddington Harper, Gridserve CEO. “As we break new ground in EV charging, access is at the forefront of the design and construction of our flagship products. We recognise the need to consider how we provide drivers with the right information to make an informed decision about charging on their journeys. We welcome any feedback from drivers on how we can make the charging experience as easy and accessible as possible.”