The UK’s first service station dedicated to electric vehicles, dubbed the ‘Electric Forecourt’, is set to open in November.
Gridserve, the company which hopes to open more than 100 ‘Electric Forecourts’ across the UK, has confirmed that its first site is almost up and running. The site is located in Braintree, Essex, along a busy road between London and the East of England. Once operational, Gridserve’s first Electric Forecourt will offer enough electric vehicle charging stations to charge up to 30 vehicles at any one time.
The Braintree site will leverage a number of different chargers, all manufactured by ABB. The chargers range in speed, with the fastest designed for heavy goods vehicles and cars with quick charging speeds. Those chargers will be the Terra HP 175/350 kW units from ABB, of which there will be 12 in Braintree. Most electric cars will be content with the 12 Terra 94 units, which provide a charging speed of up to 90 kW, while those only capable of slower charging speeds may want to opt for one of six Terra AC 22 kW chargers.
While those are the chargers provided by ABB, there will additionally be six Tesla Superchargers specifically for Tesla vehicles, which is a format that Gridserve plans to replicate or enlarge with Tesla at many other Electric Forecourt sites in the future.
Gridserve’s Electric Forecourt dream
The Electric Forecourt is a concept thought up by Gridserve as a replacement for traditional service stations that focus on petrol and diesel vehicles. While many service stations already offer electric vehicle charging, the company argues that the current provision at most is inadequate — especially considering the expected explosion in the number of EVs on UK roads in the next few years.
That’s the main reason behind the design of the Electric Forecourt. It will provide enough rapid chargers to ensure that people can get on the move quickly, while also providing retail outlets, a wellbeing area, business lounge and children’s area for people who want to kill time while their car is charging. The Braintree site will have a retail unit operated by WHSmith, which will include a coffee shop, convenience supermarket, as well as fresh and frozen food. Brands including WHSmith, Costa Coffee, Post Office, Booths, and Gourmade will all be represented.
Toddington Harper, founder and CEO of Gridserve, said, “Our UK-wide network of over 100 customer-focused Electric Forecourts will eliminate range and charging anxiety by making it easier and cheaper to charge an electric vehicle than to fuel a petrol or diesel alternative. The UK’s first Electric Forecourt represents so much more than an electric equivalent of a modern petrol station – it will deliver a fully loaded customer experience, offering the Best of British retail and customer service to cater for a full range of consumer and driver needs.”
Green driving, green charging
While Gridserve mainly wants to solve the issue of inadequate charging along busy routes, the company is also keen to ensure that it’s contributing to a low carbon economy. That’s why its Electric Forecourts will leverage solar energy and battery storage to help reduce its impact on both the grid, as well as the environment.
Locally, Electric Forecourts will have a small battery storage system to provide power to the electric vehicle charging stations without leveraging the grid. In Braintree that means a 6 MWh battery storage solution which can store up to 24,000 miles of charge.
However, Gridserve is going further by decarbonising the grid that supplies its Electric Forecourts. To do this the company is developing several large solar farms which will be supported by grid-scale batteries. Already several solar farms are up and running, including the UK’s first subsidy-free solar farm, the Clayhill Solar Farm in Bedfordshire, which Gridserve acquired.
Additionally, Gridserve recently completed the UK’s most advanced solar farm, a 34.7MWp project at York with bifacial panels, single axis sun trackers, and a 30MWh battery, and is completing a 25.7MWp project at Hull using similar technologies.
It takes a village
Building the UK’s first network of service stations dedicated to electric vehicles is a huge undertaking, although Gridserve isn’t going it alone. While the company does plan on doing a lot of the heavy lifting, it has a number of partners to help it along the way.
On the ABB partnership, Harper commented, “It has been a pleasure working with the ABB team on delivering this pioneering project that is a step change in supporting the transition to mass market electric vehicles. Our vision for Electric Forecourts truly makes EV ownership viable to everyone who needs to charge in a convenient way to support their everyday needs.”
Frank Muehlon, head of ABB’s Global E-Mobility Infrastructure Solutions, said, “It’s been a privilege to help Gridserve realise its first Electric Forecourt. It’s a visionary concept that will enable drivers, for business or leisure, to charge their vehicles at maximum speed with the advantage of plenty of bays, protection from the UK weather and the comfort of high quality services.
“Braintree Electric Forecourt represents an important step on the way to the government’s goal of having high power and hassle-free charge points on England’s motorways and major A roads by 2030. It will be exciting to see how this continues to transform EV ownership in the UK.”
Toby Keir, managing director at WHSmith Travel, added, “At WHSmith, we have been serving customers on their journeys for over 200 years and we understand how important convenience is to people on the go. We’re therefore delighted to be partnering with Gridserve’s Electric Forecourt to deliver a new first-class retail experience, with fantastic service and a tailored product offer. It’s a great concept and we look forward to playing our part over the next hundred years with the future of electric cars.”
Edwin Booth, Executive Chairman at supermarket chain, Booths, noted, “We’re excited to work with GRIDSERVE to deliver on our one simple aim – to sell the best food and drink available, in attractive stores, staffed with first class assistants. As a family-owned retailer with sustainability baked into our core, we couldn’t think of a more fitting opportunity to continue our journey into the South of England.”
In combination with Gridserve, customer support at the new Electric Forecourt will be provided by the AA via a dedicated team of electric vehicle experts. Drivers will be able to call a dedicated helpline from each supercharger and receive advice on any technical questions related to the charger or even their vehicle.
Edmund King OBE, president at the AA, concluded, “The UK’s first Electric Forecourt is an incredibly exciting project, pioneering the future of electric vehicle charging. We are thrilled to be partnering with Gridserve to provide instant support for EV drivers as they charge – just one of the ways we’re transforming our customer service to help accelerate the shift to electric vehicles.
Gridserve’s Braintree site will open in November, although the Electric Forecourt concept will be expanded to more than 100 locations. Achieving that number may take some time, however. Thankfully, we may not have to wait too long until number two and number three are open, as planning applications for two additional sites in Uckfield and Norwich East have been submitted.