Citizens Advice says electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers and energy companies must put ‘consumers at the heart’ of future development plans so that the poorest members of society are not left behind.
The charity, which is a network of over 300 independent local charities across the UK, has developed a set of recommendations based on its research examining driversâ€™ attitudes towards EVs and ‘smart’ charging schemes.
The charity says they are concerned that as EV usage increases, there is a risk the National Grid will need to be bolstered with thicker wires to cope with demand, which could lead to higher bills for consumers, with the poorest effectively subsidising those who can afford to drive an EV.
To remedy this, they have called on energy companies to develop â€˜smartâ€™ charging schemes for EVs which are convenient and fair for drivers but donâ€™t put pressure on the Grid.
They also suggest drivers could be offered lower tariffs in return to charging their car at times of the day when there is less demand.
Customers must also be offered financial guarantees on aspects of EVs such as battery health and be accessible for people who are not digitally savvy, the charity added.
Finally, they suggested that the EV market must be tailored to meet the needs of those with mobility issues, parents of young children, and those living in remove areas with restricted access to public transport or public charging.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: ‘The electric vehicle market is small, but rapidly expanding. Itâ€™s also a vital part of the decarbonisation of the whole transport system.
‘If the evolution of new charging systems is to be a success, drivers need to be involved and listened to from the start.
‘The potential risks and benefits can be hard for people to assess – particularly if, like most of us, they donâ€™t own or have access to an electric vehicle.
‘Itâ€™s also really important that the needs of people with limited budgets or mobility issues are considered and these groups are not left behind.’
Think tank Localis published a report in January warning that poorer parts of the country could get left behind from the shift towards EVs unless local authorities are given to power to draw up their own â€˜smart cityâ€™ plans and energy policies.
They also argued local authorities should be able to form their own consortiums using existing knowledge of their local areas, and also be empowered to work with private energy network providers to deliver the infrastructure they need for the future.