It was less than a month ago that we brought you the news of Shell repurposing one of its existing forecourts from fuel dispensing into an EV charging hub, and it sparked some debate among people over on Facebook. Many saw it as a great idea, whilst others didn't think service station-style charging would be viable for EVs.
Now, sustainable energy specialist of over 40 years, Gridserve, has gone one bigger and announced that it is breaking ground on its first Electric Forecourt – a new initiative that it thinks will help solve some people's charging concerns and pave the way for EVs to become more mainstream.
Effectively, the Electric Forecourt is a purpose-built service station for EVs. The first of its kind is being built just outside Braintree in Essex and will be opened later this summer, providing space for 24 EVs to charge simultaneously at up to 350kW. Obviously, that kind of power intake is rare in current EVs, but what this does mean is ultra-rapid speeds in excess of 150kW can be delivered, and the site is future-proofed.
Alongside the 24 charging points, the Electric Forecourt will have a two-storey building offering a coffee shop, convenience store, airport-style lounge with high-speed Wi-Fi, as well as bookable meeting rooms. An interesting feature of the site under construction is the inclusion of an EV education centre which will provide information on sustainable energy and EVs, and even offer people the chance to look at and test drive the cars.
Check out Gridserve's digital fly-though of the new site here.
CEO and Founder of Gridserve, Toddington Harper, told us: “We chose the site in Essex as our first having already secured over 100 sites in strategic locations where we know we can install the necessary infrastructure. The site at Great Notley is near the A131, serves the M11 and Stansted airport, and we know that the local community is large enough to support the facility.
“Our primary objective is to deliver fantastic service through a brilliant range of facilities. We even have a partner lined up for the test drive and education function, and we're excited to announce closer to the completion of the site.”
We asked Toddington as to why a customer might choose Gridserve's Electric Forecourt over rivals from well-established brands like Shell and BP. His answer was short and sweet: “Simply, we aim to provide the best customer service!
“This will be the most advanced charging facility in the UK, and possibly the world. Drivers will be able to turn up and charge their vehicle at the fastest rate each vehicle can support, using 100 per cent renewable energy and with the best possible charging experience.”
As specialists in sustainable energy generation and management, the Electric Forecourt in Essex will be supplied completely by green energy. This will be predominantly generated by solar – one of Gridserve's specialist areas – as well as having high-capacity, on-site battery storage also constructed by the company. On-site solar will provide power to some of the services as well as feeding into the energy storage.
That energy storage will be critical in making the Electric Forecourt work, as the local grid simply wouldn't have the power availability to deliver 350kW to multiple vehicles at once.
Customers won't be bound by subscriptions, thankfully: “We will provide flexible payment options to customers at our sites,” continued Harper. “These will include a subscription service, but we will also offer traditional contactless or chip and pin payment so that EV drivers can simply turn up and charge quickly, and securely, without having to manage an additional subscription.”
We did enquire as to whether energy would be more expensive if paid for outside of a subscription, as we have seen with other charging providers, but at the moment that information hasn't been confirmed.
Whilst the first Electric Forecourt near Braintree has been part-funded by £4.86 million from Innovate UK (one of the largest such grants given out in 2019), the company has set its sights on bigger things. As part of a £1bn programme, the company is developing more than 100 Electric Forecourt sites in strategic locations – typically near towns and cities, as well as motorways and transport hubs. Within five years, it aims to have a UK-wide network.
Harper is excited not just by what's happening already in Essex, but what's coming up very soon after: “There are half-a-dozen locations currently going through planning. Once they are a bit more advanced through the process and the information is going to be public, we will make new and exciting announcements.
“We want to accelerate the electric vehicle revolution, support UK climate and clean air targets and help the grid meet the challenges of the low carbon transition. We are interested in new project opportunities and are partnering with investors, developers, local authorities, EV manufacturers, retailers, fleet operators and others who share our vision,” he concluded.
We will keep in touch with Gridserve and bring you not only more news on the development of the site in Essex, but also news of future sites and schemes as they progress.