Cheltenham design consultancy wins £50,000 investment to develop the UK's first accessible EV charger

A design consultancy based in Cheltenham has been awarded £50,000 from Innovate UK to develop the first accessible electric vehicle charger in the country.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Duku Design, which is based in Cheltenham, has been awarded £50,000 from Innovate UK to develop its ground-breaking new accessible EV charger.

Cheltenham-based design consultancy, Duku, which has designed the UK's first ever accessible EV charger, has won a significant investment from Innovate UK

The firm was awarded £50,000 as part of the Innovate UK Inclusive Innovation Award, which will allow the design firm — which has worked with the likes of the NHS, Spirax Sarco and Whyte Mountain Bikes — to develop and roll out its own ground-breaking product. 

Duku has a long history of inclusive design and has helped to make a variety of products more accessible, from mobility scooters to library scanners, as well as award-winning medical products.

After launching Duku EV to focus specifically on the high-growth EV charging sector, it has cemented itself as one of the UK's leading EV consultancies, having developed charging points for local authorities across the country.

Through its own research, it established that only 25 per cent of disabled motorists would currently consider buying an EV due to the inaccessibility of charging points — with that number rising to 61 per cent if accessible charging points were made available, leading Duku EV to start work on designing its own. 

Created for people with disabilities or mobility issues, Duku's unique design means it can be used with only one hand and features a patented automated cable system and plug-mounted controls, so users can take the charging plug to their car and operate it from there. It also removes the need for collision barriers, which people with mobility issues often find difficult to navigate around. 

It trialled a prototype pop-up street charger with its partner, Urban Electric, in Oxford before applying to Innovate UK to fund an initial feasibility study. After securing this funding, it then ran a larger-scale trial with 400 disabled drivers to get their feedback on the product.

Duku's director, Andrew Aylesbury, said: 'For some drivers, lifting a 5kg cable, downloading and operating apps, navigating around barriers that protect the charging ports from cars, and actually finding the charging ports can present significant challenges.

'Some of these accessibility issues have never been properly addressed with petrol pumps, and we now have a window of opportunity to deploy an inclusive design, before we spend millions of pounds installing EV chargers all over the country.'

The charger received praise from the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers and Helen Dolphin MBE, who is a member of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and a disabled driver herself. 

It is also the first EV charger in the UK to meet The British Standard Institute's latest PAS 1899 standards for accessible charging.

The investment from Innovate UK will allow Duku to finalise the development of the 22kW public variant of the charger with the ability to accept contactless payments, ideal for businesses, councils and local authorities to use on residential streets and in car parks. 

Aylesbury, added: 'It is a great honour to receive this award. The funding received will make a significant difference, ensuring we can continue to use our state-of-the-art prototyping equipment to bring inclusive design innovations to life.'

Duku is one of just 50 UK businesses to receive the Innovate UK Inclusive Innovation Award, alongside fellow Cheltenham-based firm, Change My Face.

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