Ground broken at UK's first rapid-charging EV forecourt

Work has begun today (10 March) on the installation of an "electric forecourt" featuring rapid electric vehicle (EV) chargers, battery storage and onsite renewables in Essex, meaning the facility will open for public use this summer.

An artist's impression of the facility, showing its rooftop solar array and battery storage modules. Image: Gridserve

An artist's impression of the facility, showing its rooftop solar array and battery storage modules. Image: Gridserve

The forecourt is the first of more than 100 planned sites by green technology firm Gridserve and, once complete, will be capable of charging up to 24 EVs simultaneously.

Each of the charging points at the forecourt will be able to deliver up to 350kW of charge, which users can adjust in line with their vehicle’s technology. Gridserve claims this means many models will be able to charge within 20 or 30 minutes. Energy to power the chargers is generated using onsite solar panels, which are connected to battery storage arrays to balance out variable outputs. Any additional electricity required will be procured through a 100% renewable energy tariff.

The forecourt is being built in Braintree, next to the Horizon 120 Business and Innovation park, planned for Great Notley, after Braintree District Council granted planning permission last summer. The site has links to Stanstead Airport, Chelmsford, Colchester and the M11, and will play host to meeting rooms, an airport-style lounge, a coffee shop and convenience store.

Braintree District Council’s cabinet member for corporate transformation Cllr John McKee said that the forecourt “fits in with the District Council’s vision for the park - to create a forward-looking business community with emphasis on long-term sustainability and future-proofing to facilitate modern ways of living and working”.

Gridserve said in a statement this week that the forecourt will open this summer, but is yet to confirm a specific date.

The ball is in your (fore)court

The forecourt in Braintree is one of 100 planned by Gridserve under the firm’s £1bn Electric Forecourt project, which it is aiming to complete within 15 years.

Backed by the UK Government’s £5bn Energy Investment Portfolio, the project has secured planning permission for more than 80 sites across the nation to date.

Each forecourt will follow a similar structure to the first location; they will all combine onsite renewables, multi-megawatt batteries and a dozen or more rapid EV chargers. Some will be co-located with solar farms currently being developed by Gridserve, including arrays in York (34.7MWp) and Hull (25.7MWp) as part of a partnership with Warrington Borough Council.

Gridserve is working with ChargePoint – operators of the world’s largest EV charging network – and engineering and design firm Arup to complete the Electric Forecourt project.

While pure EVs accounted for just 2% of vehicle registrations in the UK last year, they represented just over 1.1% of registrations in 2018, meaning their market share doubled year-on-year. Moreover, a rapid uptick in uptake is expected ahead of the Government’s ban on new petrol and diesel car sales – recently moved from 2040 to 2035 by Boris Johnson, on the advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

A study from Centrica this week highlighted the speed at which the EV transition is now gripping UK businesses, concluding that British firms plan to spend £12bn on fleet electrification within the next two years.

Sarah George



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