Forecourt Trader Summit 2022

Investment in car washing and/or electric vehicle charging becamethe key points of discussion at Forecourt Trader’s Summit 2022, where industry experts put forward their views on the theme for the day – The Road Ahead.

In front of a packed audience at The Belfry near Birmingham, the interests of the traditional retailer was pitched against the challenges of providing charging facilities for a growing population of electric vehicles.

Brian Madderson, the former chairman of the PRA and now consultant for the Car Wash Association, made a temporary break from retirement to suggest that: “If you have got £200k to invest and you want a quick return don’t go for electric charging, go for car washing.”

His comments came after he explained how work done by the Car Wash Association, coupled with the timing of the Covid pandemic, had led to the closure of many rogue hand car wash operations where employees were victims of modern slavery. As a result, many forecourt operators were investing in car washes. He then showed a slide with photos of recent installations of car wash equipment where operators were making a great return on their investments.

Madderson said there were concerns at government level over whether the 2030 ban on the sale of new ICE vehicles was realistic. There was a worry that it could backfire because of problems such as electricity supply and the question of where HMRC was going to recoup the £35bn in lost fuel duty and VAT made from the sale of petrol and diesel.

Meanwhile Steve Rodell, managing director, retail at Christie & Co, said: “The explosion in interest in EV charging shows it’s coming, there is no doubt about that… There are agents, valuers, investors, developers - you name it - I am getting interest from all over the place saying ‘we want a half-an-acre to an acre site to develop an EV charging centre 

“But there is no point in going for this kind of model if you can’t get the grid connections to receive a fast charge.”

Rodell stressed that “this is not a one-size fits all exercise”.

“I don’t think most sites will suit EV charging in the long run so you have got to speak to the experts. If not, could you redevelop your site into something else?”

Meanwhile Toddington Harper, founder and CEO of Gridserve, which is currently progressing plans to deliver more than 100 Electric Forecourts across the UK, said his company was very much technology focused, and had charging solutions on a large and small scale, such as integrating batteries on a very small format – the highest density batteries to help fix pre-connections.

“If you want to put charging in but it’s too expensive, or it’s going to take too long, there’s a good possibility we can speed that up by integrating with battery.”

He also said that when his company talks about chargers, he meant high-powered chargers: “You need to be future-proofed – technology is changing incredibly quickly.”