Comment: Building safe, public EV charging sites

Lewis Gardiner, Head of Operations at Osprey Charging, examines some of the logistical challenges associated with developing the UK's EV charging network.

Features such as CCTV and lighting can enhance user safety when charging
Features such as CCTV and lighting can enhance user safety when charging - Osprey

The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK continues to gain momentum as we approach the ban on petrol and diesel car sales in 2030. In 2022, EVs outsold diesel vehicles for the second consecutive year, with a remarkable 40 per cent increase in total sales. To keep up with this surge in demand, the deployment of EV charging infrastructure is rapidly accelerating.

While expanding the charging network is crucial, it is equally important to prioritise safety and ease of use for all drivers in the process. Public charging sites that instil confidence and comfort will ensure drivers return to them and help foster a seamless transition to electric transportation.

Charge point operators (CPOs) such as Osprey play a vital part when it comes to building safer public EV charging sites. Before any chargers are installed, careful consideration should be given to the location car park and its surroundings. CPOs will choose locations with a high footfall or high passing traffic count, ideally placing the chargers near amenities to foster a bustling environment where drivers feel secure. By integrating shops, leisure activities, cafés, and restaurants nearby, EV drivers can not only make use of their time while charging but also have access to assistance if needed. If land is purchased specifically for an EV charging facility, Osprey will bring in amenities - at our Salmon’s Leap hub in Devon for example, we leased the on-site café building to local farm and coffee shop, Strawberry Fields.

As more drivers rely on EVs for their daily commutes and long-distance journeys, charging outside of daylight hours becomes inevitable, particularly in the winter. Another key consideration to enhance driver safety and comfort is therefore to ensure that charging sites are well-lit, both overhead and at the chargers themselves. In cases where additional security measures are needed, CCTV coverage can be included too if the existing car park does not already have it.

Delivering a swift, seamless charging experience is also important. Maximising the number of charge points installed on site, whilst matching the location dwell time, not only creates a busy space but keeps drivers happy and moving through.

Load-balancing technology, which we use at many of Osprey’s hubs, helps with this by making best use of the power available. The system distributes the available electricity supply to each charger based on the vehicle's requirements in real-time. This ensures efficient power distribution across all chargers, with none wasted, minimising waiting times and getting more cars charged and drivers back on the road faster.

A simple and user-friendly payment process is also fundamental for a stress-free, swift charging experience. Accepting contactless payments as standard enables drivers to initiate charging with a single tap of their bank card or digital wallet. This reduces the start- and stop-charge administration time in the car park, helping drivers feel more confident and secure.

Another way to do this is improve the space and access to the charge point for drivers with mobility requirements and those with small children and prams, who can feel more vulnerable moving around a car park. Osprey closely follow the PAS 1899 Standards (2022) for accessible charging within the space and permissions granted to us, to ensure our sites are as easy to use as possible for all drivers.

CPOs can further enhance the safety of their charging sites by collaborating with independent organisations specialising in public charging site inspection. For instance, ChargeSafe is a prominent body that conducts impartial inspections of EV charging sites, placing a central focus on safety. Following inspection, ChargeSafe assigns a rating to each site, providing constructive feedback based on objective assessments and customer experiences. At Osprey we believe that this is one of the most impactful ways of ensuring drivers feel safe which is why we were the first CPO to work with ChargeSafe.

By working with these organisations, CPOs and their landlord partners are holding themselves accountable for improving the personal safety of their charging sites, especially where older sites may not have been built to current standards. The valuable feedback from both customers and independent assessors is used to shape the design, placement, and construction of future charging locations as well as retrofitting where possible, fostering a continuous improvement in the safety standards at public EV chargers.

As the transition to EVs gains momentum, we have to ensure that our public EV charging infrastructure not only keeps up with demand but also prioritises safety. By focusing on these key aspects, CPOs can help create safer, smarter, and more comfortable charging sites, and ensure that EV drivers feel confident and return to the chargers time and time again. 

Lewis Gardiner is Head of Operations at Osprey Charging