The UK’s first Electric Forecourt has officially opened for business today as a £1 billion UK-wide programme to make driving electric vehicles more enjoyable and convenient gets under way.
The £10 million development near Braintree, Essex, is the first of more than 100 Electric Forecourts planned over the next five years by Gridserve.
The company’s founder and CEO, Toddington Harper, says he wants to help move the needle on climate change, and make electric vehicles more accessible to all by providing people with the confidence that the UK will have the charging infrastructure required for mass EV adoption well ahead of the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars.
Toddington said: “Today’s announcement represents a major milestone in achieving Gridserve’s purpose to deliver sustainable energy and move the needle on climate change. It’s our collective responsibility to prevent greenhouse gas emissions rising further, and electric vehicles powered by clean energy represent a large part of the solution. However, charging has to be simple and free of anxiety, which is why we’ve designed our Electric Forecourts entirely around the needs of drivers, updating the traditional petrol station model for a net-zero carbon world and delivering the confidence people need to make the switch to electric transport today – a full decade ahead of the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars
“Together with our charging-included electric vehicle leasing business, that we are also launching today in partnership with Hitachi Capital (UK) plc, people now have the full confidence to make the transition to an electric vehicle, knowing that charging is in-hand, and it’s actually less expensive to use an electric car than a petrol or diesel alternative.”
Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean, said: “As we accelerate towards cleaner and greener transport, I’m delighted to see the future of service stations being brought to life with the opening of the UK’s first all-electric forecourt. Government funding has helped make this dream a reality and with £2.8bn of support to encourage the uptake of zero emission vehicles, there has never been a better time to make the switch.”
James Cleverly, Minister of State, former Conservative Party Chairman and MP for Braintree, said: “Our government is committed to increasing the take-up of electric vehicles, to clean our air and enable us to achieve net zero carbon emissions as quickly as possible, which is why we have just brought forward the ban on new petrol or diesel to 2030. GRIDSERVE’s Electric Forecourt®, close to Braintree, is the most advanced charging facility in the world and is pioneering the world-class infrastructure required to support our policies and drive the confidence we need to make the move to sustainable transport in the UK.”
The Braintree Electric Forecourt, adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131, enables 36 electric vehicles to be charged simultaneously, with high power chargers that can deliver up to 350 kW of charging power, enabling people to add 200 miles of range in 20 minutes, and much faster in the future as electric vehicle battery technologies mature. Together with Gridserve, the project has been funded by Hitachi Capital (UK) plc, Innovate UK and OZEV.
The Electric Forecourt is part of Gridserve’s wider ‘sun-to-wheel’ infrastructure, built to deliver low cost, net zero carbon energy to every vehicle that uses one of Gridserve’s chargers. Electricity is generated from both the solar power canopies above the chargers, and a network of hybrid solar farms, also operated by Gridserve’s. The UK’s first subsidy-free solar farm in Clay Hill is paired with Braintree Electric Forecourt, providing 100% renewable energy via the National Grid. There is also a 6 MWh battery onsite which helps to balance the local energy grid and shift energy to periods when it is more valuable. For example, on windy winter nights the battery can store enough energy to drive 24,000 miles in electric vehicles the following day, helping to maximise the value of renewable energy resources, stabilise the grid, and keep prices low.
Drivers charging at the Electric Forecourt will initially pay just 24p per kWh of energy (including VAT), which is currently the lowest ultra-high power charging rates on the market today – meaning a typical charge from 20% to 80% costs under £10 for an average-size electric vehicle on the market today. To deliver additional flexibility Gridserve also has plans to introduce a tiered pricing structure in the future.
While vehicles charge, drivers can relax and shop in state-of-the-art facilities that cater for all their needs. This includes a comprehensive retail space, operated by WHSmith, hosting ‘Best of British’ brands including WHSmith, Costa Coffee, Booths, Post Office, and Gourmade. The facility also includes a waiting lounge, free superfast WiFi, high-end washrooms, dedicated kid’s area, wellbeing area with exercise bikes that generate electricity, and business meeting room pods.
Toby Keir, managing director at WHSmith said: “At WHSmith, we have been serving customers on their journeys for over 200 years and we understand how important convenience is to people on the go. We’re therefore delighted to be partnering with Gridserve’s Electric Forecourt to deliver a new first-class customer experience, with fantastic service and a tailored retail offer including WHSmith, Post Office, Costa Coffee and Booths. It’s a great concept and we look forward to playing our part over the next hundred years with the future of electric cars.”
The Electric Forecourt is also designed to help people make the process of switching to electric vehicles as simple and straightforward as possible. The upper floor of the on-site building showcases the latest electric vehicles, and there are multiple digitals screens that help people learn about and source electric vehicles. With more than 200 types of electric vehicles now available, Gridserve is also hiring electric vehicle enthusiasts to help educate people about electric vehicles, and arrange test drives, with the ultimate aim of providing people with the confidence and support to make the transition to an all-electric future.