The UK’s first EV charging station opens for business

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The UK’s first charging station for electric vehicles (EVs) has opened near Braintree, Essex, offering rapid charging for up to 36 vehicles at a time.

The site is the first of over 100 ‘Electric Forecourts’ being built by GRIDSERVE over the next five years, providing people with the confidence that the UK will have the charging infrastructure required for mass EV adoption well ahead of the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars. The company’s £1bn UK-wide programme aims to make EV driving an enjoyable, ultra-convenient and stress-free experience and also includes a new EV leasing service.

Toddington Harper, Founder and CEO of GRIDSERVE, said:

“Today’s announcement represents a major milestone in achieving GRIDSERVE’s purpose to deliver sustainable energy and move the needle on 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

Together with our charging-included electric vehicle leasing business, that we are also launching today in partnership with Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC, people now have the full confidence to make the transition to an electric vehicle, knowing that charging is in-hand, and it’s actually less expensive to use an electric car than a petrol or diesel alternative.”

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.”

The site, adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131, enables 36 electric vehicles to be charged simultaneously, with high power chargers that can deliver up to 350kW of charging power, enabling people to add 200 miles of range in 20 minutes, and much faster in the future as electric vehicle battery technologies mature. Together with GRIDSERVE, the project has been funded by Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC, Innovate UK and OZEV.

Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean, said:

“As we accelerate towards cleaner and greener transport, I’m delighted to see the future of service stations being brought to life with the opening of the UK’s first all-electric forecourt.

Government funding has helped make this dream a reality and with £2.8bn of support to encourage the uptake of zero emission vehicles, there has never been a better time to make the switch.”

The ‘Electric Forecourt’ is part of GRIDSERVE’s wider ‘sun-to-wheel’ infrastructure, built to deliver low cost, net zero carbon energy to every vehicle that uses one of GRIDSERVE’s chargers. Electricity is generated from both the solar power canopies above the chargers, and a network of hybrid solar farms, also operated by GRIDSERVE. The UK’s first subsidy-free solar farm in Clay Hill is paired with the forecourt, providing 100% renewable energy via the National Grid. There is also a 6 MWh battery onsite which helps to balance the local energy grid and shift energy to periods when it is more valuable. For example, on windy winter nights the battery can store enough energy to drive 24,000 miles in electric vehicles the following day, helping to maximise the value of renewable energy resources, stabilise the grid, and keep prices low.

Drivers charging at the new station will initially pay just 24p per kWh of energy (including VAT) – currently the lowest ultra-high power charging rates on the market today – meaning a typical charge from 20% to 80% costs under £10 for an average-size electric vehicle, while the company plans to introduce a tiered pricing structure in the future.

While vehicles charge, drivers can relax and shop in state-of-the-art facilities. This includes a comprehensive retail space, operated by WHSmith, hosting “Best of British” brands including WHSmith, Costa Coffee, Booths, Post Office, and Gourmade. The facility also includes a waiting lounge, free superfast WiFi, high-end washrooms, dedicated kid’s area, wellbeing area with exercise bikes that generate electricity, and business meeting room pods.

Toby Keir, Managing Director at WHSmith said:

“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 customer experience, with fantastic service and a tailored retail offer including WHSmith, Post Office, Costa Coffee and Booths. It’s a great concept and we look forward to playing our part over the next hundred years with the future of electric cars.”

The charging station is also designed to help people make the process of switching to EVs as simple and straightforward as possible, with the latest vehicles showcased on the upper floor of the on-site building and digitals screens that help people to learn about and source EVs. The company is also hiring electric vehicle enthusiasts to help further educate and arrange test drives. 

EV LEASING SERVICE 

In partnership with Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC, the company has also launched ‘GRIDSERVE Electric Vehicle Solutions, the UK’s first net zero electric vehicle leasing business, designed to bring the cost of driving electric well below that of petrol or diesel cars, and minimise the environmental impact of EVs.

Net zero carbon energy is included in monthly leasing payments, meaning drivers can charge at the charging stations without paying any additional costs, removing a key barrier to mass EV adoption and enabling people to accurately compare the costs of leasing a petrol/diesel vehicle with an electric vehicle. 

To further reduce the environmental impact of EVs, GRIDSERVE has partnered with a tree planting organisation, with will plant 100 trees for every electric vehicle leased through the service. 

Toddington Harper said:

“Together with our Solar Farms and Electric Forecourts, GRIDSERVE Electric Vehicle Solutions completes our ‘sun-to-wheel’ infrastructure designed to deliver net zero carbon transport from 2020 onwards. By including the planting of 100 trees for every electric vehicle leased through the service and providing net zero carbon energy to charge all the vehicles, we’re making EV driving greener, cheaper and more straightforward than ever before.”

Robert Gordon, CEO of Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC, said:

“Our partnership with GRIDSERVE is 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.”

GRIDSERVE and Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC plan to offer electric vehicles from all major vehicle manufacturers. At the time of launch, available brands include Audi, BMW, DS, Mercedes-benz, MG, Mini, Nissan, Renault, and Volkswagen.

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