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Clean Transport

EV Charging Operators Need To Take Women’s Safety Seriously

EV charging operators need to prioritize safety — especially women’s safety. Our friends at IrishEVs shared two articles with me that touch upon safety issues that women are dealing with while charging their EVs while traveling. They highlight how EV charging operators need to take safety into account in order to not lose/miss customers and also simply make sure their stations are safe places to charge.

I can’t count how many times I was harassed when I ducked by the Circle K just to grab an energy drink for work when I worked in retail — and I don’t even have a car. “Hey, little lady, where you going? I can give you a ride? No? Okay, you ugly b*tch.”

There are countless stories of women being harassed at gas stations. Just last month in Atlanta, a woman was shot and killed at a gas station. So, our friends at IrishEVs are making an excellent point about safety at EV charging sites — especially women’s safety.

In November, IrishEVs wrote this article addressing safety and security at EV charging points and then followed that up with this one pointing out the need for EV charging operators to take women’s safety seriously. In the first article, IrishEVs highlighted Maddie Moat, who presented a beginners guide series for Fully Charged. In 2020, she flagged concerns about a lack of lighting and the positioning of public EV chargers.

Moate described a scenario that women face countless times in a variety of ways. She was trying to find an EV charger and it was late. There was hardly any lighting and she felt extremely vulnerable. She was alone and stuck in a situation where she couldn’t drive away. She noted that this isn’t the case for all EV charging points, but many of them are hidden away in car parks, behind pubs and business centers, or in other places she wouldn’t go by herself at night.

I also want to call attention to the carjackings that have been happening in New Orleans. I am not sure if other cities are having a rise in these types of crimes, but EV charging sites are extremely vulnerable to these types of crimes. In New Orleans, one Tesla owner was almost carjacked when he narrowly escaped. Although he wasn’t at a charging site — he was actually driving when it occurred — one can imagine a woman at a gas station or an EV charger late at night when these types of crimes happen.

EV Charging Operators Need To Prioritize Women’s Safety

I agree with Moate and IrishEVs that all EV charging manufacturers need to prioritize women’s safety as well as safety in general. The Tesla Supercharging station here in Baton Rouge is behind the Trader Joe’s/Petco shopping center and it can be eerie late at night. I live five minutes away from the Supercharger, and it can be a little rough in my area — there’s crime all over. Recently, someone was shot in my driveway (I wasn’t home). My neighbor who was on her porch and a bullet flew just over her head. With EV owners widely considered to be rich, precautions on all sides need to be taken.

IrishEVs noted that they contacted several local EV charging providers — such as ESB, EasyGo, Ionity, Applegreen, and Circle K — to address these three questions:

  • Do they acknowledge the design flaws in public charging infrastructure that make female drivers feel unsafe?

  • Have they chosen to forgo these elements for financial reasons?

  • What action will they be taking to implement a more inclusive design into public charging facilities from the start? And will these be retrofitted to existing chargers?

Ionity’s Country Manager for the UK & Ireland, Andreas Atkins, was the only one who gave a thoughtful response:

“If sufficient lighting is not available on a landlord site, we do provide and install our own lighting columns to ensure sufficient light on all our high-power charging sites in the UK (and Ireland), as well as the rest of Europe.

“Throughout Europe, our high-power charging hubs are mostly located at rest stops along motorways – these are subject to building regulations that have to be observed.

“In addition, our focus in the first four years of IONITY was on quickly building the network to provide basic high-power charging infrastructure in 24 European countries. Now that a solid foundation has been laid – with more than 1,600 charging stations – the focus is increasingly shifting to convenience aspects, which we have gradually tackled in parallel with the accelerated expansion. We have just installed our first canopies in France and are planning to introduce canopies in the UK very soon.

“We already cater for inclusive design from the start on our sites. We plan for 3 to 3.5 m wide bays that can cater for accessibility. This includes chargers on the same level as the car park bay and not up on a curb. Also, the crash bollards are set wide enough to enable wheelchair access. An example is our Cobham Extra Services site where we have wheelchair access.”

IrishEVs is offering a platform for some of the women they spoke to about these issues. One EV owner, Kate Tyrell, shared this comment:

“I have been driving an EV for 16 months now and my job means I travel a lot, so public charging is very familiar to me. Two major oversights by networks include safety and accessibility, so I am reassured by Ionity’s response where they ensure sufficient lighting is fitted if the location is lacking.

“However, where ESB reference workplace and destination charging, they need to acknowledge that if they are selling a unit, there should be a duty of care to ensure the environment is appropriate for the purpose. Sure, a ChargePoint in the car park of a supermarket or railway station at first glance would seem ok, but that is in daylight hours. I have been sat in a Lidl carpark at 11.45 pm in the pitch black, terrified because there was no human activity and I was hidden away in a dark corner.

“We are sitting ducks. Women are placed into an unacceptable vulnerable position, it’s a case of park up, unlock the car, get out with a debit/credit card, mobile phone and keys in hand to start a charge – looking at a tiny LED screen, with their back turned to the vehicle. Then whilst you wait for the charge, it’s a case of having your wits about you, constantly see if anyone is nearby who may be suspicious, before exiting the car to unplug and the whole time it is absolutely possible an attack could occur.

“I respect this is a concern for everyone, but at a time where women can’t walk home, or go for a jog, without fear of losing their lives – how are we supposed to feel safe charging our car? The chargepoint networks need to be held accountable for providing better facilities, retrospectively upgrading existing units and being more considerate of safety and accessibility concerns when selecting future charge sites. EV’s are the future, so let’s ensure it is safe.”

Live Life, But Design Better

I have lived on the streets. I have been in situations where I had to fight off someone putting a gun to my head and telling me to get on my knees or die. I fought back (and kicked ass). However, not many, especially women, have been in situations that I’ve been in and survived. Women are often targets of such crimes, and yes, some do fight back or know how to defend themselves, but many don’t or think it would never happen to them and are not prepared.

Safety is important and we can’t stop living our lives because of what could happen. But we can do our part in making sure we are safe, and this includes reaching out to businesses such as EV charging operators and encouraging them to put a special focus on safety. If anyone at any of these companies is reading this, reach out to the women in your life and ask them for advice on designing and implementing safety features.

You can read IrishEVs‘ articles on this topic here and here.

 
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Written By

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

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