Source: Photographer Carl Sukonik

Our five afternoon panellists (left to right): Paul Brant at Gridserve, retailer Jonathan Tout, Andy Cunningham from GeoPura, Joanne Hall from BP and Steve Rodell from Christie & Co

The march of electric vehicles (EVs) and what to do about it was a major theme at Forecourt Trader’s Summit and Top Indies dinner on 27 February, with influential retailer Tout’s announcing plans to introduce chargepoints on a trial basis, and our Top 50 Indies report showing that almost half of the UK’s biggest independent fuel retailers had now adopted EV charging.

With the UK’s millionth electric car hitting the road this year, having a strategy for what seems an inevitable tipping point from combustion to electric power at some point in the future seems more sensible than ever.

But how quickly that revolution will take place is the big question - along with where drivers will want to charge their vehicles. Exclusive research by William Reed data business Lumina Intelligence shows that almost two in three - 64% - of forecourt operators have a plan to introduce electric charging. However, like Tout’s, most seem content to take a “slow and steady” approach, Lumina reports.

Significantly, this year’s Top 50 Indies report, which was unveiled in the evening, showed that 22 of the country’s biggest independent fuel retailers, have now introduced charging. And a handful more said they have started down the planning route, despite the investment required and an electricity grid currently lacking in capacity.

And for those not wanting to take the plunge themselves, chargepoint operator Fastned announced a package on the day, which involves the Dutch company investing in the technology and paying up to £250,000 towards decommissioning costs in return for a lease arrangement under which the owner will receive rent and a cut of the annual turnover from the charging hub.


Source: Photographer Carl Sukonik

Jonathan Tout says he is about to start experimenting with EV charging at one of his sites

Jonathan Tout, a key figure in the forecourt community, and the 2023 Forecourt Trader of the Year, told the 122 Summit delegates that despite a plan to trial charging at one of his sites in the South West of England, he was sceptical the venture would work.

“Sites on main trunk roads, garden centres and shopping malls I think will do fairly well,” he said. But he predicted that many of his customers would be charging at home, and he questioned therefore whether introducing chargepoints would fit with his business profile of running “community based local centres”. However, he admitted, it was “time to find out”.

Jonathan was one of four of five people taking part in one of two industry panels at Summit, who said that they thought it was time to give EV charging a go.

Admittedly, other panellists included Gridserve’s retail director Paul Brant, who enthused about how the chargepoint and electric forecourt operator now sees 200,000 charge sessions taking place every month and how that is growing “exponentially month on month”. He said early adopters of the technology will benefit from coming on board at this “habit forming stage” for their customers.

Other speakers committed to investment included BP’s UK retail operations director Joanne Hall. The energy giant has the budget and an EV rapid charging roll-out plan. Meanwhile, GeoPura’s managing director Andy Cunningham, was another unsurprising champion of the electric transition. His company enables operators to offer rapid charging with hydrogen-powered units, in areas where the electricity grid is insufficient.

Property expert Steve Rodell, however, from Christie & Co, was more ambivalent, indicating that with so much uncertainty still around installing chargepoints, it might be best to wait a bit longer. But as with all things to do with property, Rodell had earlier suggested that the individual location of each site will be key in determining when and whether to take the leap.