The UK's first bespoke electric forecourt arrives

It’s electrifying: WHSmith, Costa and Booths at UK’s first bespoke electric forecourt

WHSmith Travel, Costa Coffee, Booths, Post Office, and Gourmade are among the retail tenants at the UK’s first bespoke electric forecourt, which opened this week.

Sustainable energy company Gridserve opened the nation’s first dedicated electric forecourt in Braintree, Essex, as part of wider electric charging point network expansion across the UK. The site is the first of over 100 electric forecourts to be built by Gridserve over the next five years.

Growing the infrastructure for electric vehicle (EV) charging comes just a matter of weeks after the UK government brought forward the date new petrol and diesel cars will be banned, to 2030. Gridserve’s £1 billion UK-wide programme aims to help grow public confidence in the EV market, and play a part in supporting people in their decision to buy electric, which is viewed by environmentalists as a more eco-friendly option than petrol and diesel vehicles.

While vehicles charge, drivers can shop or refresh themselves in the accompanying retail and hospitality space.

In addition to the aforementioned retail businesses, the facility includes a waiting lounge, free superfast WiFi, high-end washrooms, a dedicated kid’s area, a wellbeing area with exercise bikes that generate electricity, and business meeting room pods.

Toby Keir, managing director at WHSmith, commented: “We have been serving customers on their journeys for over 200 years and we understand how important convenience is to people on the go.

WHSmith at the new Gridserve electric forecourt
WHSmith on brand at the electric forecourt in Braintree [Image credit: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire for GRIDSERVE]
“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.”

He added: “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 Braintree site, which is adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131, enables 36 electric vehicles to be charged simultaneously, with high power equipment that can deliver up to 350 kW of charging power, enabling people to add 200 miles of range in 20 minutes. The speed of charging will increase in time as EV battery technologies mature, according to Gridserve.

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.

Gridserve's electric forecourt, Braintree
The first of 100 Gridserve electric forecourts in the UK (Image credit: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire for GRIDSERVE)

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, which Gridserve said helps to maximise the value of renewable energy resources, stabilise the grid, and keep prices low.

Drivers charging at the electric forecourt will initially pay 24p per kWh of energy, including VAT.

Hitachi Capital UK, Innovate UK, and OZEV have joined Gridserve in investing in the site, which also acts as a base for a new EV leasing service. EV experts and an EV showroom are also situated there to help educate the public about the market.

Read more about retailers’ electric fleet commitments on Green Retail World

[Main image credit: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire for GRIDSERVE]

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