Having recently acquired the Electric Highway electric vehicle (EV) charging network, GRIDSERVE last week brought together its Electric Forecourts, Electric Hubs and the Electric Highway into one brand.
The GRIDSERVE Electric Highway is to consist of over 50 high-powered Electric Hubs, 300 rapid chargers at 150 motorway services and 100+ wholly owned GRIDSERVE Electric Forecourts, the first of which opened in Braintree in Essex in December.
Current± caught up with GRIDSERVE CEO Toddington Harper to discuss the freedom the full acquisition gave the company, the funding required for its next steps and how it's navigating the "real challenges" of COVID-19 and Brexit for its Electric Forecourt developments.
Why was the decision made to fully acquire the Electric Highway?
We wanted to have the freedom to take it in the direction that we wanted to take it.
We have some pretty enthusiastic plans [for] delivering sustainable energy on such a scale that we can move the needle on climate change, and to do that we need to be able to deploy really significant money into the infrastructure which we're delivering and we need to hit it all with huge enthusiasm to try and get as much done as quickly as we possibly can, as we are running out of time to address climate change. To do that we needed to be in charge of our destiny, and as a minority shareholder, we weren't, and as the full shareholder, we were.
I think it was good timing as well for Ecotricity. I think they did an amazing job of starting and building the first ever charging network in Europe, but I think they were ready to pass the baton on to someone to give it a new lease of life and take it to the next stage.
What was the motivation behind bringing together the GRIDSERVE and Electric Highway brands into the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway?
We're just trying to simplify everything as much as we possibly can. I don't think most people know the Electric Highway brand yet because they think of it as Ecotricity, whereas we're going to put the Electric Highway brand front and centre of everything we're doing.
So whether someone's at an Electric Forecourt, or going on a long journey via the motorway network, or whatever it might be, it's just simple. It's a single brand, it's the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway.
The next phase for GRIDSERVE is going to cost over £100 million, with GRIDSERVE having received new funding from Hitachi Capital UK and The Rise Fund. Hitachi has previously funded GRIDSERVE, but how did The Rise Fund funding come about?
We became aware of each other through mutual interest in this space. We had a few conversations, and we just felt that we saw the world from a very similar perspective. We've got a really good thing going on at GRIDSRVE, we've got a phenomenal team, we've got an amazing partner and shareholder in Hitachi Capital. We're really careful about who we bring in, but of course, we need a huge amount of money to deliver what needs to be done. So having a partner like The Rise Fund, who are, I think, the world's largest impact investing platform, it's just phenomenal.
We haven't actually announced how much they've invested in GRIDSERVE. We've just announced that the next phase of plans that we're moving forward with is going to require more than £100 million, so you can come to your own conclusions.
The next phase of our plan for the Electric Highway is fully funded, so we're cracking on.
What are the next steps for the continued development of the Electric Forecourts?
There's another four Electric Forecourt sites that we have planning permission for now, half of which we're already starting the early work for the construction. We've had a lot of complexities due to both Brexit and COVID-19. COVID-19's probably caused the biggest challenges, and Brexit hasn't helped either. It's caused global shortages of silicon; it's just caused real challenges, as well as shipping costs and all of the above. We are, like everybody else, navigating that.
But we have four new sites- we've got one in Uckfield, which is really cool because it's got a solar farm as well that we're building at the same time and we'll connect the two together. That's what we call a Solar Electric Forecourt. All of them have solar canopies, but this is a physical solar farm as well.
We've got another one at Norwich, one at Gatwick Airport, and we've got another one at Gateshead. These sites have all got planning permission, and then behind them there's around another 25 or so Electric Forecourts that are progressing very well. And behind that, about another 70 or so that are going through various processes.