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With the headline ‘Spark’s gone’, The Sun’s recent story about drivers ditching EVs in their droves to return to petrol vehicles due to lack of charging stations has definitely given people food for thought.

The campaign to get us all into EVs has been going at full throttle for some time now but doubts that some experts have had about switching from ICE to electric are now playing out to a wider audience.

The Sun’s story, which follows stories of those queues of Tesla drivers desperately trying to charge up at Christmas time, comes off the back of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) latest new car sales data which says sales of plug-in vehicles continue to grow but charge point rollout fails to keep pace, which is challenging consumer confidence. According to the data, one in five new cars registered in January came with a plug.

The SMMT anticipates that plug-ins will make up more than one in four new registrations this year, representing growth of 32.1% or approximately 487,140 units, and almost a third (31.0%) of the market in 2024 at 607,150 units.

However, it says the rollout of infrastructure needed to charge them is failing to keep pace. During Q4 2022, the ratio of new charge point installations to new plug-in car registrations dropped to one for every 62 – a significant fall compared with the same quarter the year before, when the ratio was 1:42. As a result, in 2022, one standard public charger was installed for every 53 new plug-in cars registered, the weakest ratio since 2020. The SMMT says mandating rollout targets for infrastructure and regulating service standards would give drivers certainty they can always find a working, available charger.

According to Zap-Map , the UK’s leading charge point mapping service, the number of rapid and ultra-rapid public chargers at UK petrol stations rose from 526 in 2021 to 722 in 2022 – an increase of 37%. In total, at the end of January there were 37,851 charging points across more than 22,355 locations, a 31% rise since the same time last year.

A Zap-Map spokesperson said: “The majority of EV drivers are able to charge at home but it remains vitally important for infrastructure to meet demand, which is why we need to see continued investment in en route devices, including at petrol stations, for those making longer journeys.”

In tandem with Zap-Map’s data, there have been some major announcements recently regarding EV charging on the existing forecourt network.

For example, Top 50 Indie MFG says it installed 30% of all ultra-rapid EV hubs in the UK during 2022. The company installed 271 ultra-rapid chargers across its network in 2022, with an additional 31 hubs, with a further 175 chargers in construction.

MFG has committed to spend £400m in EV infrastructure by 2030. Twenty per cent of this investment has already been deployed during 2021 and 2022, with a further £50m being spent in 2023 on installing over 360, ultra-rapid 150kW EV chargers at hubs throughout the UK. These can add 100 miles range in approximately 10 minutes, subject to the charging capability of individual car batteries. They will be augmented with 300kW+ chargers as vehicle battery technology improves to maintain the fastest charging times across the MFG network.

MFG is definitely getting a good reputation in the EV charging marketplace having come in

joint first place in a ZapMap survey, scoring highly for reliability and ease of use.


Planning ahead

Following the installation of over 100 high power chargers in 2022, Gridserve has unveiled 32 new high power chargers at four new Electric Super Hubs.

On the M23, Pease Pottage has six high power chargers while on the M4, Reading Westbound is now open with 12 high power chargers. To help boost the charging network on the M40, Cherwell Valley has six high power chargers for EV drivers, and there are also high power chargers at Solstice Park on the A303.

This means Gridserve’s Electric Highway currently has chargers in 169 locations.

Meanwhile, Basildon Borough Council has given the green light for Gridserve’s Electric Forecourt in Nevendon. The Nevendon Electric Forecourt will be located off the A132 (Nevendon Road), north of the A127 Nevendon Flyover and within close proximity to the centre of Basildon. The approved design will sit on approximately 3.34 acres of greenfield land, which will allow for the installation of 31 EV chargers.


Extensive upgrade

One of the pioneers of EV charging, InstaVolt, has announced an extensive upgrade programme to over 200 of its existing ChargePoint CPE250 chargers.

The upgrades, which will be completed by the end of March, will see the 50kW chargers upgraded to 125kW, and therefore significantly reducing charging times.

InstaVolt says that once the work is completed it will have more chargers capable of delivering charging speeds of 100kW+ than any other fully public network.

Adrian Keen, CEO of InstaVolt, says: “The majority of EVs on the road will benefit from this upgrade. With most of our CPE250s located next to convenience retail and roadside food and drinks outlets including operators such as Costa Coffee and McDonald’s, this is another example of InstaVolt perfectly matching charging speeds to dwell time and providing an even better experience for its drivers.”

The upgrades to the network follow several site expansions, with additional chargers being added to existing high footfall locations to support drivers as EV numbers grow.

bp pulse app

Growing fast

Through 2022 BP pulse has been upgrading its network, investing in reliability of existing charge points while growing the rapid and ultra-fast network.

Approximately 25% of BP’s owned and operated retail sites in the UK now have EV charging facilities. All of these include ultra-fast chargers (>150Kw) and a number now have 300kW charge points

By the end of this year it aims to have up to 70% of its owned and operated retail sites in the UK live with EV charge points. And it is focusing on ultra-fast (>150kW +) charge points.

Globally, BP has approximately 22,000 EV charge points and aims for more than 100,000 by 2030 – around 90% of which will be rapid or ultra-fast.

For dealers, BP says it has a range of EV charger offers available from fixed (permanent chargers) to flexible ones. The benefits of the flexible chargers are speed of deployment/installation and cost thanks to their integrated battery system – this removes the need for construction of a dedicated high-voltage substation considerably reducing installation cost and time.

A spokesperson says: “We offer an end-to-end service from feasibility to operation. If a dealer is interested in adding EV charging to their site we will work with them to understand what is possible and this can depend on things like power availability, demand outlook, range of uses, visits and dwell times.

“We conduct a comprehensive feasibility study to understand requirements and from that provide options and costings to the dealer. In rare occasions sites are unsuitable due to lack of land, costs vs. demand or power availability”.

BP reports that utilisation is up in every market BP pulse operates in. In the UK, where customers have the choice between fast and slow, customers use its ultra-fast chargers five times more frequently than the slower ones.

The spokesperson continues: “In the UK we tend to see the average charge time at about 15-20 minutes on our ultra-fast units, so for us, charging at our retail sites go hand in hand. You charge, while grabbing a coffee, a few groceries, using the bathroom and get back on the road.”

Investing in ultra-rapid charging is a smart move as OC&C Strategy Consultants’ new Forecourts of the Future report found that 83% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for ultra-rapid charging.

The report said that UK EV drivers already prioritise speed over cost when considering where to charge their vehicle, with 41% of those surveyed ranking it as their main consideration, followed by 39% citing cost and 31% convenience.



Left to right: Ciaran McNally, Brian Donaldson and Kevin Paterson

A Northern Ireland first

In Northern Ireland, Maxol has opened the first dedicated ultra-rapid EV hub at the newly expanded and developed Kinnegar Service Station in Holywood, County Down.

The hub features four high-powered rapid and ultra-rapid chargers including a 200kw charge point that can charge a single vehicle in as little as 15 minutes. There are a further two 150kw charge points that service four vehicles at any one time and a single 50KW rapid charge point. Up to six vehicles can be charged at one time and the chargers are powered using renewable electricity.

Brian Donaldson, chief executive of The Maxol Group said: “Maxol has delivered the first dedicated ultra-rapid EV charging hub in Northern Ireland – to build upon the charging points we already have in place at Townparks in Antrim, at Mallusk in Belfast and the charge point at our newly refurbished site at Edenderry.

“Maxol continues to invest in and develop the right infrastructure across our service station network to support the move to electric. At all these developments we worked closely with the team in NI Electric Networks to provide the necessary grid capacity to power the chargers and additional requirements for each location.”

Donaldson says the Kinnegar site has been developed to offer the “ultimate in convenience”. While their cars are being charged, drivers can use their ‘dwell time’ to visit the new Eurospar to do some shopping or grab a Barista Bar coffee or a bite to eat at the new Delish Hot Food Bar.

OC&C’s Forecourts of the Future report states that even with ultra-rapid charging, dwell time for EV drivers is predicted to be three times that experienced by drivers of ICE vehicles.

The report says: “At present, the dwell time for an EV charge is between 30 and 40 minutes. In the future, we anticipate this will reduce to between 15 and 20 minutes, but this is still significant compared against the current dwell time of, on average, three minutes.”

It states that there is already evidence that the longer dwell time drives higher non-fuel spend. It found that 60% of EV drivers are more likely to spend on non-fuel items, compared to 40% of ICE drivers. It also found that on average EV drivers will spend at least double the amount of ICE drivers.

petroassist hellonext

Welcoming HelloNext

HelloNext is the brand name behind EV charging solutions distributed in the UK, Northern Ireland and Ireland by Petroassist UK.

Kieran Bradbury, EV business development manager, explains: “Petroassist UK has a complete range of HelloNext EV charging solutions from small 7kw to 22kW AC models that are ideal for home, workplace and commercial charging applications through to our DC fast and ultra-fast models ranging from 30kW wall mounts through to 360kW that are commonly installed in retail applications such as EV charging hubs, car parks, petrol filling stations or any location where rapid charging is required.”

Bradbury says the HelloNext EV range has full compatibility with back-end software packages from major charge point operators including Petroassist’s own software solution that allows customers to develop their own EV network of charging stations. HelloNext solutions also have full compatibility with contactless payment allowing users to ‘Tap, Charge & Go’ without the need to download apps and register details.

Barry Onions, head of sales at Petroassist, adds: “Petroassist has a strong background in pay@pump systems and we see contactless payment as a key driver to simplify the operation for EV users to charge their vehicles with the same ease as conventional refuelling.”

Bradbury says one key strength of the Petroassist EV offering is that it is a ‘Fully Funded EV Solution’ which eliminates the cost barrier for customers wanting to install EV charging at their sites.

He explains: “One of the barriers to installing EV charging for customers is the cost of supply and installation. This cost can be significant when compared to a traditional fuel installation but we can remove that barrier to help customers enter the EV charging space with the latest solutions without a large financial commitment.”



Significant surge

Richard Frost, technical sales manager, at Swarco Smart Charging says they have seen a significant surge in interest and activity especially in the past 12 months, with major independent forecourt operators exploring their options. This year, he expects the pace at which EV charging infrastructure is being added to UK fuel stations to accelerate.

“Operators have been watching and learning from the first movers and what they are seeing is a promising picture which is spurring them into action. We’ve been working with a number of forecourt retailers and they’ve experienced greater network performance than perhaps they anticipated, and their EV chargers are exceeding expectation in terms of kW hours being delivered.

“There are going to be some exciting developments this year, with a number of major schemes rolling out for operators who are working with Swarco to add EV charging to their sites for the first time.”

Frost says operators are keen to work with partners who have the experience to help them understand and navigate all the options that are open to them, and the scale to ultimately deliver the right solution for them.

“No fuel station is the same. So this is a learning journey that many are on especially when, for example, it comes to understanding how to get power to their sites. But the effort will pay off. Fuel stations provide the ideal location for charging – a location with which drivers are already familiar, and that doesn’t require them to change their behaviour.”

He says the two deciding factors for forecourts are how much physical space is available today and how much power can be accessed (or how much it will cost to bring in additional power). It is still a fine balancing act, but we will see more operators daring to do it this year.”

BP Sholing

What you say…

Ben Lawrence, Lawrence Garages: “We have the ducting in place at Harleston but haven’t converted any parking bays to EV at this stage. BP Sholing is going into planning for two EV chargers with help from BP which will cover four cars.

“I believe traditional forecourts will still have a role to play for decades to come but must broaden their appeal within the space allowed. We are creating hubs by using third-party equipment ie valeting centres with Washtec, pizza machines, Amazon lockers, launderettes and next, hopefully, EV chargers. Gone are the days when we used to push customers into our stores. Contactless machines on all equipment gives the customers who do want to shop a more pleasurable experience without the pressure of paying quickly and moving on.”

Tom Dant, managing director, Gill Marsh Forecourts: “We currently have one site with an EV charger and, to be honest, it doesn’t get used that regularly. But we are actively looking at installing them at our other sites. I have recently become an EV driver and this has given me a completely different point of view on putting chargers into sites. Speed and ease of use is top of the list.

“In terms of dwell time most people use the toilets and probably get a coffee but mainly stay in their vehicles.

“In terms of how traditional forecourts will transition to EV stations, sites that will remain viable are the ones with facilities for EV drivers such as seating, wifi and foodservice. The worrying thing for me is the fact that the average customer for us is probably around five minutes for a fill up, whereas the average charge is 20-30mins. This means that we wouldn’t be able to service any near as many customers in the future.”

Goran Raven, Ravens Budgens: “We do not have EV chargers on site at the moment, but it is not for the want of trying. We have been doing our best to get the Shell dealer offer on site for the last two-and-a-half years, however due to multiple reasons it has not fallen in place yet.

“The biggest issue we have is the constantly increasing DNO (distribution network operator) connection cost. Three years ago the cost was quoted at £250,000; last month that cost had been pushed to £1m!!! We are awaiting new legislation that comes into effect in April that limits what the DNO can charge to connect to get the price back to a normal value. When we do get EV, I am keen to get those customers to visit the store. I see them as being a prized customers who will be in store much longer that a traditional customer.”