Charging your car alone in a dark car park at night… Why does this happen and how can we fix it.

As more and more of us move to electric vehicles there is one problem which concerns many owners, charging alone in an often dark car park at night isn’t a nice experience and at times feels pretty damn scary, an unwritten rule at Tesla was to only ever install a supercharger at a location where a new/young mother would feel safe charging at night, Tesla does an OK job on this but they do fail at several UK locations (something I’ve raised and continue to raise with them to improve) but it’s even worse with most other charging operators and something needs to be done before someone becomes another statistic. This issue recently resurfaced when Maddie Moate (a much-loved TV presenter and first time EV owner) tweeted the following:

So why does this happen?

Primarily the issue is because the most cost-effective way to install a rapid charger is one where you don’t have to dig up most of a car park to install it, so the chargers are often at the outer edges of a car park which often leads to poorly lit charging spaces that back on to bushes or wasteland that are not covered by CCTV.

The second reason is that a good way to prevent ‘ICEing’ (where a petrol car blocks an Electric Charging Bay) is to keep the EV chargers away from ‘prime’ parking spots (e.g. near to services/CCTV/lighting etc).

The third reason is that generally no single company owns & manages the sites where rapid chargers are located so no single person has full control, most of the time a site is split as follows:

  • Land Owner (generally hands-off and push issues to the tenant)
  • Tenant (e.g. Welcome Break)
  • Leaseholder for the charger location (e.g. Tesla)
  • Leaseholder for the power/grid connection (e.g. Western Power)

I nearly didn’t include the fourth reason as it’s based on pure speculation and I have no evidence of any direct correlation and I’d hope regardless of sex people would think of this, but from a very quick and non-thorough LinkedIn search and my knowledge of the most popular charging operators in the UK it does appear that men are generally the decision-makers for most (not all) of the UK Charging Networks and whilst I’m sure they all strive to think of all eventualities and do the best they can with the budgets available to them, I do wonder if this may sadly play a part.

So, in summary, we have likely 4 organisations all wanting to maximise profits and keep costs low, whilst even with best intentions, these EV charging spots are placed away from the hustle and bustle which leads to many superchargers located in dark corners of car parks.

So what can we do?

Push Governments to ensure all charging operators do the following:

  • Remove all hurdles to pay, e.g. Contactless bank card payments retrofits for ALL existing Rapid Chargers (currently charging operators only have to install them on new builds) this means it’s quick and easy for all to arrive, charge and get back into their cars.
  • Provide suitable lighting (both in front and behind) all-electric rapid chargers so the whole area is lit well.
  • Provide suitable CCTV and/or ANPR coverage at charging sites
  • Not install chargers so far away from the entrance to facilities
  • Ensure better signage or technology is implemented to prevent ICE’ng

What else has previously been suggested?

In the past an ’emergency release’ button inside your Tesla has been discussed at great length, in an ideal world this would be great, however, I still fear this will simply be abused by the lazy which would lead to damaged adapters etc.

What will I do?

I will promise to take this issue to The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (The Secretary of State for Transport) and outline the concerns.

I will and have taken this to Elon Musk (both publicly and privately):

I will work with anyone that raises this issue to help them spread awareness, please tag me on Twitter etc.

The actual answer has of course already been thought of: