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Should you let your dog wee on EV charge points?

The defining question of our generation as the number of drivers switching to electric vehicles increases...

Published: 09 Oct 2023

Plenty of drivers buy cars based around their beloved pooches. Statistics – according to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) – show dog ownership in the UK has increased 12 per cent since 2021. But you shouldn’t let Buster wee on just anything, so say EV charge point designers.

It’s surely the mythbusting question you never thought you needed to ask, but here we are. Turns out dog wee is a bit of a problem when it comes to electric vehicle charge point design. No, really.

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Speaking to TopGear.com at SMMT Electrified 2023, Warwick Goodall, clean and smart mobility expert at PA Consulting highlighted the issue while demonstrating the EV charge point the firm unveiled at COP 26.

The project – to create an accessible charge point design and prototype (pictured) – was commissioned by the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), responsible for delivering the government's plan to roll-out at least 300,000 charge points by 2030. Goodall said: “[EV charge point] design needs to take many things into consideration, including things you'd never think of.”

That includes canine urine, apparently. Darren Seymour, design and innovation expert at PA Consulting, added: “Design extends beyond just the person using it and how we can drive a behaviour for them to want to use a charge point. It goes to the humanity part of design where we start thinking about the environment.

“If there's 300,000 of these chargers on our streets, people are going to be walking past them and they'll form part of people's lives.” And of course, the dogs’ lives and their new ports when nature calls.

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The firm wants to align its design with something as entrenched as the UK’s emblematic red post boxes, which have stood the test of time. Google tells us the oldest one is 171 years old and sits in Holwell, Dorset, and has clearly braced the adversity of thousands of mutts over the decades. No pressure, then.

Much to our sorrow, there’s no concrete statistical data regarding the corrosive effect of dog wee. However, Bryan Saignasith, head of hardware at Pod Point – one of the UK's longest established EV charge point manufacturers – said: “In reality it comes down to chemical degradation of the product over time. When we do product compliance, often the standard (regulations, like BSI) of the product would drive you to test a set of chemicals [to define] the product's longevity.”

Saignasith can get pretty nerdy about the materials used to protect the energy supply and electronic setup at the heart of every EV charge point – it’s his job after all. But the key takeaway is that the aluminium powder-coated steel is the durable metal of choice for Fido to cock his leg against. And, jest aside, there's a serious aspect to this.

In 2003, Derbyshire county council commissioned a £75,000 investigation into the corrosion of street furniture from dog urine. Following a human fatality from a falling street lamp, the council checked nearly one million lamp posts. The late Walter Burrows, cabinet minister for the environment and highways at the time told BBC News: “If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny.”

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Spanish city authorities in Seville, Spain take the issue of dog wee extremely seriously. In 2021, it followed other cities and brought in measures requiring dog owners to carry bottles of a water/vinegar/soap mix to ‘rinse off’ their pooch pee from its streets, or face fines of up to €75 (£65).

Seymour said: “Of course we laugh about dog wee, but it's not just that." When you've stopped elbowing your mate who's still having a chuckle over the word 'wee', note that modular design – like the one Lego takes in all its projects – helps replace the bits that dogs damage (the base), while keeping the rest of the device intact. That's not to say there aren't issues at the other end of the charge point.

Goodall added: “A change that's going to come in the next few years is something called ‘plug and charge’. If you have a Tesla and you go to charge, you just plug in and it'll automatically communicate with your car. [The charge point] will allow people to just turn up and plug in without any apps on their phone.”

With its non-screen approach, Tesla has proved that screens on EV charge points aren’t really necessary. Every modern car has at least one already. Screens haven't been part of Pod Point's design for some time, either. Saignasith said: “When you have a screen in an environment which is exposed to environmental conditions - sun and so on for an extended period of time - it's very likely going to cause issues, right? That's a fact. It's a piece of electronics. It's got copper track, running electricity every single day for many years and this will at some point fail as this is basic physics.”

So if you've recently been frustrated while using an EV charge point without a screen, now you know. Meanwhile, we ask, should you let your dog wee against on-street EV charge points?

Image Credit: Scopio/Noun Project

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