As EV ownership becomes widespread, the lack of accessible charging infrastructure is emerging as a critical gap in station planning and design. Now, at least two municipalities say it’s time to make it right
Walking past a row of electric vehicle charging stations in Gananoque, Ont., a town located halfway between Montreal and Toronto, Mayor John Beddows noticed something that made him raise an eyebrow.
“There were no wide parking spaces to accommodate an individual who needs to open a door all the way to get out of their car if they have a walker or two canes,” Beddows recalls in an interview with Electric Autonomy.
“And the charging stations themselves were set back behind the curb and protected behind poles. This means somebody with a walker or in a mobility assistive device can’t get to the charging cord.”
This observation — the absence of accessible EV chargers — struck Beddows as an issue in need of more attention.
Accessible EV charging infrastructure is crucial. It enables easy access to electric mobility at charging locations and also fosters EV adoption in Canada.
“This is about equity in infrastructure for an essential service as far as I’m concerned,” says Beddows.
Motion to require accessibility
Gananoque has 31 public charging stations. According to Beddows, only three offer any accessibility features. Before any more are built, he wants to ensure the new station designs accommodate all individuals.
“As the percentage of EVs on the roads increases, it would be silly not to assume that the percentage of people who require accommodation to access charging stations would increase the same,” he says.
At Gananoque’s upcoming town council meeting on Jan. 16, Beddows says he will put a motion before council directing staff to investigate municipal regulatory mechanisms to require accessibility as an integral design feature for future EV chargers.
“I’m the mayor of Gananoque. I see a need to enable all of our residents to be able to access what will be an increasingly important service,” he says.
Accessible charging stations in Delta, B.C.
As Gananoque works to mandate accessible EV chargers, across the country in Delta, B.C., another municipal government is making meaningful advancements to ensure its chargers are fully accessible.
To enhance the accessibility of its EV charging stations, the City of Delta hired a design consultant to add accessibility features to all new charging stations.
These features include:
- Shorter pedestals with lower handles and screens (minimum of one at each new site);
- Installation of new pedestals at pavement level, rather than on sidewalks or curbs, for easier handle reach;
- Installation of longer charging cables for the DC fast charge station;
- Inclusion of one parking stall at each charger site with wider dimensions;
- Implementation of a cable management system, eliminating the need for manual cable rolling; and
- Most new public stations will be on flat, paved surfaces, except for one location on a flat, gravelled surface.
Donny van Dyk, Delta’s city manager, tells Electric Autonomy in an email ensuring the availability of accessible chargers is a responsibility that should be driven forward by all stakeholders.
“Each level of government, along with all organizations involved in the installation or provision of EV charging stations, has a duty to include and promote accessibility,” says van Dyk.
The city has 30 existing Level 2 public chargers. And it is in the process of building 20 Level 2 public chargers, one DC fast charger along with 10 Level 2 chargers for municipal fleet vehicles, only.
Delta is also working with BC Hydro, on widening some stalls at four local DCFCs owned by the utility.
One charging network operator that is vocal about charger accessibility is BC Hydro.
In fall 2022, BC Hydro announced its entire EV charging network would be fully accessible. This will happen through retrofitting older stations and building new barrier-free sites by 2024. The accessibility features include wider parking stalls, paved access, lowered chargers, wider protective bollards, improved lighting and better signage.
BC Hydro also said it would advocate for its hardware vendors to continue improving features on equipment (such as lowering screens and improving cable management systems) for better accessibility.
“It’s essential to collaborate with your project partners and consider the principles of inclusion, adaptability, collaboration, self-determination, and universal design to support the identification, removal, and prevention of barriers to accessibility for EV charging stations,” says van Dyk.
These are the same principles that Mayor Beddows of Gananoque is committed to uphold.
“Equity is everybody’s responsibility. But I happen to be in a position right now where I can maybe move the needle a little bit and contribute to the beginning of a public discussion.”