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A breakthrough in rapid charging technology from Western Power Distribution (WPD) could make charging electric vehicles at motorway service stations quicker and easier in future.

The electricity distribution network operator is launching its ‘Take Charge’ project which aims to not only make rapid charging at motorway service stations easier for both service station operators and customers, but the company claims it also has the potential to save tens of millions of pounds.

WPD is investing over £1million in the project which will design, test and trial new technology to deliver the electrical capacity required for rapid EV chargers to be installed at service stations. WPD predicts that this latest innovation will mean a saving of almost £500,000 per site installation compared to the technology currently used. This would represent a total saving of £33.3m across the UK if it were to be rolled out to 75% of existing service stations.

The company says it has created a standardised, pre-constructed and pre-packaged ‘one size fits all’ solution that will provide up to 20MVA of capacity, ensuring that service station customers can simultaneously charge their vehicles at peak time. Rather than building additional complex infrastructure that requires a lot of space, the project will develop “plug and play” components which can easily and quickly deliver capacity. This will provide the capacity for around 40 rapid chargers per service station site.

The solution is currently at the design stage with the build due to start in October 2020. The project is being launched in conjunction with the UK’s largest motorway services operator Moto and it is aiming to get rapid charging up and running at Moto’s Exeter service station by March 2021. The installation will be trialled over a six-month period to evaluate the performance of the new solution, the benefits generated and the associated learning.

In its recently released rapid charge point vision, the Government said all motorway service stations should have at least six rapid chargers onsite within three years. Overall, the Government’s ambition is to see around 6,000 high-powered charge points on England’s motorways by 2035. It is hoped that WPD’s project will make the installation of rapid chargers easier and more cost-effective for service station operators.

Commenting on the project, WPD’s DSO development manager Paul Jewell said:

“Government and industry have long identified the importance of making widespread rapid charging available at service stations. If we are to encourage the take up of EVs, we need to make charging in all scenarios easier and quicker. Our Take Charge project provides a ready-made solution for the installation of rapid chargers at service stations. Not only will the project cut costs, but it will make the installation of rapid chargers easier across the whole of the UK.

“Ultimately it is our hope that this project will ensure that EV drivers on journeys of all lengths are never far away from a rapid charger and that service stations have the capacity required to meet expected demand.”

Moto chief executive Ken McMeikan said: “I am delighted to be working in partnership with Western Power Distribution on this critically important investment for the future. The pace that motorists are going to switch to electric vehicles is only going to increase and we aim to transform their experience through the addition of even faster chargers across our sites.”