The future of forecourts is green, with offers of alternative energy, high levels of service – and the fuel pumps tucked away round the back of the shop.

That’s according to the 2020 Vision report from brand and design consultancy Circle, which gives an outline of how it sees the forecourt sector moving forward in the next decade.

Circle chairman and petrol retail expert Robert Onion says there are two major factors that will force a reassessment of how filling stations are operated, used and branded in the future: the demand for alternative energy and the desire for service.

According to Onion: "Alternative fuels will creep into use over the coming decades as soon as thy are viable in the west although developing markets such as India and China will remain heavy users of oil. Ultimately, however, oil will become so costly that it will be priced out of the market."

He adds that the alternative fuels will have an effect on where and when we fill up. And given that vehicles wil run on a mix of fuels – electricityk, natural gas, petrol, diesel or hydrogen – fuel retailers and oil companies will need to dvise new strategies to use their real estates. He predicuts that traditional oil companies will either divest completely or devise new economic models for their sites, such as renting space to a range of energy suppliers and leisure retailers like British Gas, hotels and cinemas.

In addition: "Within urban areas we will see much smarter use of real estate. For example, smaller sites located within urban areas on high streets will place the main emphasis on the shop offer. Increasingly the shop will come to the front of the site and the fuel to the back, giving easier access for passing trade."

So what will the forecourts of the future look like? "Modern, clean, architecturally engaging, sensitively landscaped, built using environmentally sustainable materials, integrating a range of environmental technologies, and ultimately great places to be. They’ll consign distress to the distant past and replace it with genuine enjoyment."