UK’s first electric forecourt to open in November

Essex charging facility to boast charging for 30 cars at up to 350kW, along with food and retail outlets

Gridserve electric forecourt

The UK’s first ‘electric forecourt’ will open in November, offering charging for 30 vehicles, plus a building offering food, shops and an electric vehicle education centre.

Gridserve’s new site, near Braintree, Essex, will have chargers rated at up to 350kW, and the firm has signed agreements with WH Smith, Costa, Post Office and food retailer Booths to create what CEO Toddington Harper describes as being like “a high-end petrol forecourt”. Above the shops will sit an education centre and a lounge with free Wi-fi, meeting pods and a wellness centre, featuring exercise bikes which can generate electricity.

Harper says the site will be capable of charging any electric vehicle on the road at whatever speed they are capable of accepting. The site’s chargers are supplied by ABB, and comprise of 12 350kW (CCS), 12 90kW (CCS and CHAdeMO), and six Type 2 22kW AC chargers. These are paid for on a plug and charge basis. In addition, there will be six Tesla Superchargers.

Gridserve says that it has capacity to ensure all chargers can run at their maximum rate simultaneously. 

While the cost per kilowatt is yet to be announced, it will be “competitive”. Harper says there will be levels of cost, suggesting that frequent users could sign up for deals to cut the cost of charging. An app will launch allowing motorists to book chargers, and even jump the queue if they need a quick charge to get them on their way.

Harper says the set-up is designed to provide confidence to electric vehicle drivers and deliver fast charging at scale. He said: “We want to enable the masses to move to electric vehicles. People just want to use their car, and not be daunted. This is designed to work for the masses”.

The site, which is around 17 miles from the M11, Stansted Airport and a similar distance from Colchester and Chelmsford, will be net carbon-neutral from the start. Gridserve has recently acquired a 10MWp (megawatt peak) solar farm with a 6MW battery near Flitwick, Bedfordshire, which will provide net zero carbon energy. In addition, there are 200 KWp (kilowatt peak) panels on the Braintree site.

Many of these solar panels, which feature photovoltaic cells on both sides to maximise the amount of energy generated, form shelters above the main rows of chargers.

Braintree is the first of 100 electric forecourts Gridserve is planning over the next five years. Sites in Norwich and Uckfield, East Sussex are next in line. Each will be net carbon-neutral from the outset, as part of Gridserve’s 'sun-to-wheel' plan, as it increases the number of its solar farm and energy storage facilities.

Each electric forecourt will be future-proofed, allowing Gridserve to add more chargers and adapt to a changing market. Its on-site energy storage can even supply power equivalent to 24,000 miles, in the event of a power outage.