Are electric car charging locations safe enough for drivers?


A new campaign is calling for improvements to the standards at electric car chargepoint locations over concerns women particularly feel unsafe when using devices.

Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan should introduce minimum personal safety standards to help protect women and vulnerable users at all of the 33,000 public chargers across the UK, according to online marketplace Heycar.

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.

Charging an EV at a public device can be a ‘personal safety roulette’: New campaign calls for improved standards at charging locations, demanding they’re well lit and have CCTV cameras

The campaign follows a survey of drivers which found 80 per cent feel vulnerable when charging their electric car.

This is down to a number of reasons, such as devices being located at sites that make users feel isolated, poorly lit and not monitored by CCTV cameras, which is not the case at the majority of regular petrol station pumps. 

Of 500 EV drivers it polled, 63 per cent said they don’t think security measures at today’s charging points are adequate and 89 per cent have even driven away from a device because they felt unsafe at the location. 

Sarah Tooze, consumer editor at Heycar, describes the existing public charging infrastructure as a ‘personal safety roulette’, especially for women.

‘Personal safety at public EV charging points is an issue for all EV drivers, but women feel particularly vulnerable,’ she explained.

‘At the moment it can feel like playing roulette – drivers don’t know what they’ll find when they arrive. 

‘The chargepoint 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.’

Tooze added: ‘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.’

Keele University interviewed female electric car drivers and found that most were concerned about charging late at night in dark, poorly lit, unsheltered, and relatively isolated areas

Keele University interviewed female electric car drivers and found that most were concerned about charging late at night in dark, poorly lit, unsheltered, and relatively isolated areas

The campaign comes off the back of new research from Keele University that illustrates the concerns of women when using public 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 said they felt ‘trapped’ inside their vehicles while charging, especially if there were no basic amenities close by.

Academics at the 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.

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.’

Nine in ten electric car owners polled by Heycar said they have driven away from a public charging device because they felt unsafe at the location

Nine in ten electric car owners polled by Heycar said they have driven away from a public charging device because they felt unsafe at the location

Calls for improvements to personal safety levels at the nation’s public charging points have been backed by Volkswagen UK’s finance arm, though it admits that it is currently unaware of any attacks on any users at sites.

Emma Loveday, senior fleet consultant at VWFS UK, said: ‘There is a risk of women being subjected to unwanted behaviour and, worse, being attacked. 

‘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.’ 

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

Its co-founder, Kate Tyrrell, 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 per cent 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.’

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