The latest site - with five more in the pipeline - features Amazon’s Just Walk Out checkout-free system

Toddington coffee cut

Toddington Harper: Turning attention back to developing a chain of next generation all-electric forecourts

Checkout-free, cashless convenience shopping and a charging app are key to Gridserve’s plans for a network of all-electric forecourts, after it today officially unveiled its third all-electric forecourt, at Gatwick Airport - with five more sites in the pipeline.

Talking to Forecourt Trader at the launch of the facility, which includes a grocery store, Costa cafe and driver lounge, Gridserve’s chief executive Toddington Harper said that Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, introduced by Gridserve for the first time at Gatwick, is part of his company’s vision.

The company has planning approval for five sites, and although Toddington could not reveal how many would take the new technology he said that it was helpful in speeding up the shopping process. Customers present their bank card or electronic wallet as they enter the store and then leave with their goods without having to queue at a checkout.

“We did not see this as a one off,” says Toddington. “People love it and the process of setting yourself up [with Just Walk Out technology] requires investment. But having done it, we have a model that we want to replicate and roll out as soon as possible.”

The Gatwick all-electric forecourt follows larger hubs at Norwich and Braintree, the UK’s first such site in 2020. Gridserve has planning approval for five other locations, including Stevenage which is under construction, Nevendon in Essex, Plymouth, Gateshead, and Markham Vale in Derbyshire.

It is also hoping to open in Hartlepool, Leeds, Bromborough in Merseyside, Yeovil and Rutherglen – its first such outlet in Scotland.

Toddington says that the ambition is part of his business helping to “move the needle on climate change”, and that having spent the past three years upgrading motorway chargepoints on the Electric Highway EV charging network he acquired from Ecotricity in 2021, he is now turning his attention back to developing a chain of next-generation forecourts.

He also plans to “push the boundaries” with the introduction of a charging app in the next few months, which will include an ‘auto charge’ feature that ‘remembers’ vehicles, and matches a driver’s car with their payment card.

At Gatwick, which has been trading since late last year, Toddington says that “hundreds” are using the 30 chargers daily, and that it is popular with airport workers, airline passengers, taxi and private hire drivers, as well as locals. Chargers cover all the major connector types, including four Tesla 250kW chargepoints, and 22 have 350kW capacity – with potential to provide 100 miles of charge in five minutes.

New Gridserve

Hundreds of EV drivers are already using Gridserve’s 30 chargers at Gatwick each day

Gridserve retail director Paul Brant says that one of the biggest wins from the Just Walk Out technology in Gatwick’s Little Fresh store has been the shopping insights it provides. It monitors customer dwell times in each part of the store, for example, helping the business piece together where ranges should be increased. “We can mine the really rich data to evolve the range to match customer missions,” says Paul.

Amazon’s vice president, Just Walk Out, Jon Jenkins admits that the technology – which he describes as using ”AI to train its AI” – can at first be disconcerting to customers. “But it becomes more magical the more you do it,” he says.