Electric cars have become a viable form of transport in the last few years, and as a result, we have seen EV charging points spring up at service stations, supermarkets, hotel car parks and in all manner of other places. Mobility scooters, on the other hand, have been providing affordable and green transport across our towns and villages for 40 years, and there are to our knowledge, no charging stations, free or paid, anywhere in the UK.
Countries such as Australia and Canada are leading the way when it comes to providing free mobility scooter charge points. The City of Rockingham in Western Australian and Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, Canada, have both introduced schemes that allow people to charge their mobility scooter or electric wheelchair. We have to ask, why isn’t this already standard across the UK? Most roads and towns are congested and town councils are struggling to reduce reliance on cars, and yet mobility scooters are not properly catered for.
Around 80,000 mobility scooters are sold in the UK every year, and there are an estimated 350,000 active UK mobility scooter users. There are around 160,000 electric cars on UK roads, which although rising rapidly is still less than half of all mobility scooters. And yet there are thousands of public charge points already across the UK for electric cars – see Zap-Map.com for all known charge points.
But electric cars, while better for the environment, will not reduce congestion in our towns. Mobility scooters, on the other hand, can make a huge difference to the amount of traffic on the roads, and free up parking spaces available in towns.
Why Are There No Mobility Scooter Charging Stations
Products such as Be Charged charging stations are available already for councils and businesses to purchase, but we rarely see these when visiting towns or supermarkets. It is not even clear if these are suitable for mobility scooters. or just the 2 wheel variety. Maybe a campaign is required to encourage more town councils to introduce mobility scooter charge points at prominent locations, such as town centres and near shopping centres and doctor surgeries.
If the government really wants to encourage more people to use electric vehicles and leave the car at home, then supporting the already established mobility scooter and powerchair market would be the best way to do this. Currently, many powerchair and mobility scooter owners still drive their cars into town simply because of a lack of ways to recharge batteries before returning home.
Is Scooter Charging Too Slow?
One hurdle that needs to be tackled though is the speed of charging. Electric cars get get around a 60 mile charge in 20 minutes, which is perfect if you are going shopping or to a restaurant. But mobility scooters do not currently have batteries that can be charged this quickly. Many road and pavement scooters have a range of 20-30 miles, but require 8-12 hours to fully charge a battery.
However, with the rise in mobility scooters with lithium-ion batteries (the same type of battery that Tesla uses in its electric cars) charge times are starting to reduce, although most customers are happy with overnight charging so there is limited demand for public charging. However, charge stations could provide a top-up to help get home again in emergencies.
Is Public Charging Too Expensive?
Of course, electric car owners are starting to realise that public charge points are often much more expensive than charging at home, and therefore any commercial scheme in the form of a public-private partnership could well result in high charging costs. While Tesla offer free supercharging points, most electric car owners need to charge at home using their electric own supply. It will almost always be better for mobility scooter and electric wheelchair owners to ensure that they purchase an items with a range capable of getting them out and back home again, so that they can then charge overnight using their own electric supply.
The lack of charging stations for mobility scooters and power chairs seems to be mostly down to technological limitations surrounding the batteries at the moment, and a lack of demand for the service. The best solution really is to plan journeys so that you do not need to charge your scooter mid-journey; this can be achieved with spare batteries, and of course, but charging your batteries fully each night before use. If your scooter has a range of 20 miles, this should give you 5 hours drive time, which should be enough for most journeys. Carrying a spare battery is relatively easy if you have a lithium-ion battery, but often not practical if you have larger batteries.
It would be nice to see more scooter charging stations in towns and villages, as it could greatly encourage more people to use just their scooter rather than car and scooter. Local government needs to work with businesses, cafes and venues to install dedicated mobility scooter and powerchair charging stations.