Rapid chargers replace fossil-fuel pumps as the proposed transition to electric vehicles (EVs) also means a change in our refuelling habits.
Despite home charging being the best option for the vast majority, sometimes we have to leave that comfort zone and travel beyond the range of our EV (although range will increase over the next few years, easing most ‘range anxiety’). It might be for work, to visit friends and family or get away from it all on a staycation.
There are plenty of public chargers around the UK already - around 34,000 at the current count - but the infrastructure will need to scale up, while also becoming more efficient and sustainable, over the next few years to accommodate a greater number of electric vehicles on our roads.
Enter Gridserve, a start-up that has plans to build 100 ‘Electric Forecourts’ around the country over the next five years. Gridserve CEO, Toddington Harper, says: “This is designed as a public charging solution, to be able to charge any type of electric vehicle, as fast as that vehicle would allow, in a setting that's suited for people. They can turn up to charge with all the convenience you would get from a modern petrol forecourt. What's needed now is dedicated infrastructure like this, designed to serve particular communities. This is more like an alternative to a petrol station rather than a service station."
Depending on how quickly your EV can take on a charge - and the technology is improving rapidly, so newer models can charge faster than older EVs - you’ll have 20-40 minutes to kill. Which is where the main building comes in.
On the ground floor are all the retail options you would expect: a WH Smith, a supermarket, Post Office branch and Costa Coffee. Upstairs, there’s a lounge with wifi access, meeting pods, a kids area, and a wellbeing zone. If you take advantage of just some of these activities, that 40 minute charge will go by in a flash.
One of the most significant aspects of the Gridserve project is that the company is aiming to supply net zero carbon charging. This is because the company is, as much as possible, twinning solar farms that it also owns with its Electric Forecourts.
The first site will be in Braintree and is set to open in late autumn, with Harper suggesting that the number of Gridserve sites will be in double digits within the next 18 months to two years.
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