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EV charging-station providers prepare for supersized electric vehicles and greater accessibility

BC Hydro, a utility actively supporting EV infrastructure, is thinking about how its charging station can accommodate trailer-towing electric SUVs and trucks, as well as disabled drivers.

Electric Autonomy Canada reported that BC Hydro is anticipating that a new breed of much larger electric pickups is being developed. Existing charging-station designs are barely big enough to accommodate upcoming models like the Tesla Cybertruck and GMC Hummer EV, or the Triton EV, which measures more than 18 feet in length.

All-electric pickups, such as the Ford F-150 EV, a full-sized GM electric truck, and the Rivian R1T pickup could be towing boats and trailers. That will require pull-through charging stations.

Christopher Trigardi, program manager for electric vehicles, BC Hydro said:

We are really pushing the pull-through design, especially in the more southern and northern areas of our province where we feel that there’s going to be an influx of pickup trucks that will be towing boats, towing campers, towing trailers. Within the next couple of months, we are going to have a couple of pull-through stations in service.

Trigardi said that automakers place charging inlets in different locations. So a pull-through lane will allow all vehicles to maneuver a charging connector into place. Can you imagine the challenge of plugging in a Hummer EV or Cybertruck towing a large trailer at a busy charging location?

Monika Curman, customer experience program manager at BC Hydro, said:

What we want to do is bake accessibility into the design so that it serves many more people.

That would be a big help for Jacques Courteau, a Vancouver-based Tesla driver, who uses a wheelchair for mobility. His Tesla is modified to use hand controls for accelerating and braking. When he saw new charging stations proposed by BC Hydro, he let the utility know that the design was not accessible.

Courteau said:

On all of the slides that they showed, I would not have been able to charge at any of those chargers.

I raised my hand and said, ‘Do you understand this?’ The presenter opened his eyes for the first time to that particular issue. And I said, ‘We have to talk.’

Trigardi took a ride with Courteau to see what obstacles he faces.

BC Hydro’s original two-charger station configuration had two standard-size stalls for charging and a third for a driver in the queue. The revised design does away with the waiting area. The area will need to be paved and use suitable ramps as gravel can be an obstacle. Heavier DC-fast-charge cable can also be problematic.

Trigardi said:

When we do have two stations side by side, you can’t open your door [wide to] get your wheelchair out. If you have canes or crutches or you just need more space around your vehicle, we want to provide that for our customers.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.