Research shows the average UK motorist drives 25 miles a day, so most drivers of electric vehicles (EVs)—whether that be ‘pure’, hybrid, or another electric variant—charge their cars at home, but almost three-quarters use hazardous methods, says a leading UK charity on electrical safety.

Results of a study for consumer protection charity Electrical Safety First (ESF) show that the lack of local public EV charging points is causing motorists to put themselves at risk of electric shock and of causing electrical fires.

Taking shocking risks

The survey of 1,500 UK drivers, who own a plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle, found that 74% charge their vehicles at home using multi-socket extension leads meant for indoor.

Despite almost 90% of those surveyed admitting they knew it was a dangerous practice, three-quarters of the EV drivers using domestic extension leads charge their vehicles by ‘daisy-chaining’—plugging multiple extension leads together—further increasing the chance of electric shock and fire.

Over half of EV users who charge their cars using indoor extension leads have ‘at least once’ left cables running to their vehicle when it’s been raining.

Over 70% of survey respondents making long journeys from home or work, on at least one occasion, needed to use extension leads from a domestic mains socket to recharge their car at their destination—with 44.5% doing so more than once.

When asked why they take these risks, EV drivers say there’s a lack of public charging points close to their home, with a third saying the existing number of charging points in their area was ‘not adequate at all’.

Data from the Department for Transport (DfT) and Zap-Map — a platform designed to help EV drivers to locate available charge points — shows that the increase in EVs is growing six times faster than the number of charging units available to the public. In six years, the volume of EVs has increased by 1480%.

Charging point locations vary across the UK. London has 147 within almost 39 square miles, which works out to be 2.6 charging points for every 10,000 residents. Wales, meanwhile, has only 1.55 charging locations within the same sized area and just 1.03 charging points per 10,000 people.

The powers that be

Martyn Allen, Technical Director at ESF, said:

“Our research shows a direct link between a lack of electric vehicle infrastructure and vehicle owners charging dangerously.

“A modern Britain also needs to be a safe one and Electrical Safety First is urging the government and local authorities to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to support the rapid increase in numbers of electric vehicles on our roads.

“With regards to consumers, we warn EV users against giving in to [the] temptation to use standard domestic extension leads to charge their vehicles outside, and never to ‘daisy-chain’ them together.”

Lack of suitable infrastructure is a serious concern for drivers who the government hope persuade to switch to EVs. And while private sector businesses such as petrol stations and supermarkets also offer charging points, councils are fundamental in providing the infrastructure required.

In March the Guardian discovered that budget cuts forced at least a quarter of councils in England and Wales to stop installing further charging points.

Judith Blake, the transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, told the Guardian:

“In some areas, electric vehicle charging expansion will be driven by the market, and some areas will have different needs for charging infrastructure. Councils will play an important role but all areas will respond in a way that suits local circumstances.”

She added that although councils were trying to tackle air pollution in other ways, such as encouraging cycling, creating low-emission zones, and improving air quality monitoring; a lack of long-term funding was “a clear barrier to such investment” and called on the central government to address the issue.

Take charge

In line with their decision to ban new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, the government is trying to get more and more drivers to convert to EVs.

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) operates the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, which makes charge points more accessible and affordable by contributing towards the outlay of installing an EV charging point at your home—safer than charging from the mains, using a standard extension lead!

If you have off-street parking and are the registered keeper (or lessee or are the primary user) of an eligible EV, you could get up to 75% (capped at £500, including VAT) off the price of the charging unit and its installation.

Most home chargers are a 3 kW or 7 kW rating. The higher powered 7 kW wall-mounted units are often more expensive but take half the time to charge an EV completely. EV dealerships often have arrangements with suppliers of charging units and may even offer you one for free when you buy a new car from them.

The reason off-road parking is preferable for installing charging points is to the cables causing hazards on public pavements, but in some local authorities, the number of residential on-street charging points are growing.

As per ESF’s guidance: Never use a domestic multi-socket extension lead when charging your EV and if you must use an extension lead, only ever use one suitable for outdoor use, like a reel cable (fully unwound to prevent overheating).

For detailed information on how to charge and use your EV safely, check out ESF’s Glovebox Guide.

Are you surprised by the survey results? How many charging locations are in your area? If you’re an EV driver, do you ever use extension cables to charge your vehicle? Tell us in the comments.

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