GRIDSERVE’s Electric Forecourt near Braintree in Essex has officially opened for business.
The site is the first of over 100 set to be rolled out across the UK over the next five years as part of a £1 billion programme to make electric vehicle (EV) driving ultra-convenient and stress-free, according to the company.
Toddington Harper, founder and CEO of GRIDSERVE, said it represented a “major milestone” for delivering sustainable energy and “moving the needle climate change".
“It’s our collective responsibility to prevent greenhouse gas emissions rising further, and electric vehicles powered by clean energy represent a large part of the solution.
"However, charging has to be simple and free of anxiety, which is why we’ve designed our Electric Forecourts entirely around the needs of drivers, updating the traditional petrol station model for a net-zero carbon world and delivering the confidence people need to make the switch to electric transport today – a full decade ahead of the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars.”
The Braintree Electric Forecourt allows 36 EVs to be charged simultaneously, using 350kW chargers. These high powered chargers allow a vehicle to add 200 miles of range in 20 minutes.
Electricity for the site is generated by both the solar canopies above the chargers and a network of hybrid solar farms operated by GRIDSERVE. For example, the site is paired with Clay Hill, the UK’s first subsidy free solar farm, which has a capacity of 10MW.
Additionally, the Electric Forecourt has a 6MWh battery onsite, helping to balance the grid around it and shifting energy to the most profitable periods.
Initially, drivers will be able to pay 24p per kWh of energy, which GRIDSERVE says is the lowest ultra-high power charging rate on the market current. As such, going from 20% to 80% would typically cost under £10 for an average-size EV.
The company has partnered with Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC, Innovate UK and OZEV for the project, with all three parties providing funding.
GRIDSERVE and Hitachi announce EV leasing solution
Together with Hitachi, GRIDSERVE is launching a new EV leasing service to coincide with the opening of the Braintree site. Drivers will be able to charge at Electric Forecourts without additional costs, with net zero carbon energy included in the monthly leasing payments the companies are launching.
This will help bring down the cost of driving electric, and will particularly benefit those who do not have access to off-street parking who will see the expense of charging fall by 40%, according to GRIDSERVE.
Robert Gordon, CEO of Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC, said the partnership was a “total game-changer for electric mobility”.
“Not only are we providing electric vehicles at some of the most competitive rates on the market, but we are at the same time developing a network of rapid, reliable and renewably powered Electric Forecourts that will fast-track the electric vehicle revolution in the UK as we prepare for a zero-carbon future.”
Currently, available EV brands for leasing include Audi, BMW, DS, Mercedes-benz, MG, Mini, Nissan, Renault and Volkswagen. Hitachi and GRIDSERVE plan to offer EVs from all major vehicle manufacturers eventually.
Growing EV charging infrastructure ahead of 2030
The Braintree Electric Forecourt was initially supposed to be opened in the summer, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes shops such as WHSmith Travel, Costa Coffee, Boots, Post Office, and Gourmade, as well as a waiting lounge, free superfast WiFi, washrooms, dedicated kid's area and a wellbeing area with exercise bikes that generate electricity.
On the upper floor of the site, there is an onsite showcase for the latest EVs, including multiple digital screens that help people learn about and source EVs.
This is designed to help people make the switch to EVs according to GRIDSERVE, which is becoming increasingly pressing following the government’s recent announcement that it is bring forwards the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles to 2030.
James Cleverly, Minister of State, former Conservative Party chairman and MP for Braintree, said: “Our government is committed to increasing the take-up of electric vehicles, to clean our air and enable us to achieve net zero carbon emissions as quickly as possible, which is why we have just brought forward the ban on new petrol or diesel to 2030.
“GRIDSERVE’s Electric Forecourt, close to Braintree, is the most advanced charging facility in the world and is pioneering the world-class infrastructure required to support our policies and drive the confidence we need to make the move to sustainable transport in the UK.”
In order to assess how the government can aid the rollout of EV charging to further facilitate the decarbonisation of the transportation sector, the Competition and Markets Authority launched a study earlier this week to examine the barriers.