As Bob Dylan once wrote, ‘the times they are a-changing’. Like it or not, the internal combustion engine is dying a death. The days of thousands of polluting filling-stations might be over sooner than we thought with plans to build the first UK forecourt just for electric vehicles (EVs).

With a £1billion budget and proposals for over 100 sites, the project promises fast and stress-free EV charging for motorists who have already switched from petrol and diesel cars.

Staying Power

The brains behind the idea are Gridserve, a company who envisages their Electric Forecourts® replacing standard fuel stations by providing the UK public clean, sustainable energy for their EVs.

Forecourt designs follow a similar set-up to motorway services—offering toilets, coffee shops, supermarkets, somewhere to pick up healthy food, and other retailers.

The forecourts will include airport-style lounges with high-speed internet together with EV-related information hubs. These pit-stops will give people a quick and easy way to recharge both their vehicles and themselves.

Gridserve’s forecourts will use 100% renewable, clean, zero-carbon, solar-power energy and battery storage to power each of the sites’ 24 charging bays. Plans are likewise in store for areas devoted to fleet vehicles, allowing charging of buses and taxis, etc.

If they wish, drivers may book a bay ahead of time via an app on their smartphones and use it to plan journeys and pay for extra on-site services like car washing. Gridserve will reward users of the app with their loyalty and referral schemes for using services provided by them and their partners.

Overhauling the current ordeal EV owners go through, the bays will charge most electric and hybrid models within half an hour. And for those with some smaller cars capable of high-speed charging, a recharge will take a mere 10 minutes. The Electric Forecourts® promise prices rivalling those you pay to charge from home. For that, you get the most rapid charge your vehicle can support—500kW for cars and light commercial vehicles, which is the world’s fastest.

Development of the 80 already confirmed state-of-the-art forecourts will take place along busy roads. The first forecourt may be in Braintree, Essex with those in Hull and York—where Gridserve is building the most advanced solar farms in the UK—also starting work by the end of this year.

‘Accessible and seamless’

The present public charging network isn’t fulfilling the needs of EV owners. Gridserve plans to have over 100 operational Electric Forecourts® within five years, which can only be a good thing for the UK.

Toddington Harper, Chief Executive Officer from Buckinghamshire-based Gridserve said:

‘The latest generation of electric vehicles are awesome and ready for mainstream adoption, but drivers still worry about if or where they can charge, how long it will take, and what it will cost.

‘We plan to eliminate any range or charging anxiety by building a UK-wide network of customer-focussed, brand new Electric Forecourts® that will make it easier and cheaper to use an electric vehicle than a petrol or diesel alternative.

‘Our plan is to deliver for electric vehicle charging what Amazon has done for shopping online—make it simple, price competitive, and a great customer experience,’ he added.

Gridserve is working with developers, EV carmakers, fleet operators; investors, councils, and retailers who support their concept. One of Gridserve’s partnerships is with ChargePoint.

Christopher Burghardt, Managing Director, Europe, of ChargePoint, said:

‘The electric mobility revolution is upon us and ChargePoint continues to work to help create an open and accessible network that enables drivers to enjoy an effortless charging experience everywhere they live, work and play throughout Europe.

‘ChargePoint is committed to collaborating with partners like Gridserve to build out the EV charging network of tomorrow and make driving electric vehicles more accessible and seamless than ever.’

Moving forward

Climate and clean air targets mean we must transition fast to cleaner, sustainable, transport. With the population ever growing, a reliable EV-supporting infrastructure is vital. The UK ban on the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans comes into force in 2040. Scotland has the bolder target of 2032.

While the number of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFV) grew by 30% last year, the amount of AFVs forms a small percentage of the 34.9m cars on our roads. Primary concerns motorists have, include the price of EVs, battery range, and the shortage of charging points causing extended waiting times to charge cars.

People also worry about the burden vehicle charging puts on the national grid, but Gridserve says their Electric Forecourts® will help this situation and IMPROVE both present and future grid issues.

Last year alone, research, design, and development of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging projects received £30million of government funding.

Energy stored in the batteries of EVs can act as mobile storage devices, providing support to the grid during peak hours. During off-peak hours, the battery recharges and is ready for the EV driver to begin their next journey.

As people learn about the upcoming Electric Forecourts® project, all the positive selling points should increase EV take-up and further transform the motoring landscape required for the great British electric switchover.

Does this news make you less concerned about switching over to an EV? Are you an EV driver looking forward to these new forecourts? Share your views in the comments.

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