Electric vehicle drivers will soon be able to grab a coffee, ink a business deal and even burn some calories on an exercise bike while they wait for their car to recharge.
That is the vision behind a new kind of petrol station set to arrive in the UK this autumn. The first ‘Electric Forecourt’ will open in Essex in November, and its creator Gridserve says it has been designed from the ground up to cater to the needs of electric vehicle drivers.
“What’s needed is dedicated places where you can turn up and charge your vehicle, without all of the anxiety that’s associated with pretty much charging solution at the moment,” Gridserve founder Toddington Harper told i.
An EV-only station
Depending on their car, drivers will be able to park up and plug in to almost any of the 30 high speed chargers on the forecourt, paying using contactless or via an app. At least for now, there will be no need to book a slot in advance. All the electricity charging the cars is renewable, mostly sourced from Gridserve’s own solar farms, and no petrol or diesel will be available to buy on-site. “We are in the new sunlight game,” said Mr Harper.
Once plugged in, drivers can head into the station to visit the Post Office, get a coffee at Costa, or do some shopping at Booths or WH Smiths while they charge, thanks to new retail partnerships announced today.
Above the shops will be a kid’s play area, exercise bikes, a lounge area with wifi, and meeting rooms. There’s even a spot for non-EV drivers to come and learn more about low-emission motoring.
It is all designed to make the half-hour wait for a car’s battery to recharge more bearable, Mr Harper said. “It’s really designed to be an area where you would be very happy to spend possible 30 minutes of your time once a week, perhaps twice a week,” he said.
Only around one per cent of cars on Britain’s roads are fully electric. But that is set to change rapidly in the next 15 years, as the price of electric cars fall and a ban on new petrol and diesel cars looms.
The price of power is cheaper than petrol or diesel, which poses a financial challenge for traditional forecourts. At the new electric forecourt, profit will come from sales in the shops and café, Mr Harper explained. The average driver is expected to spend 20-30 minutes waiting for their car to recharge, and in that time they might buy a coffee, pick up some groceries and post a parcel, he said.
The Braintree site is the first of what Gridserve hope will be a network of 100 electric forecourts within the next five years. They will all be sited near busy roads and town centres to capture passing traffic and people using it as their ‘local’ refill spot. A leasing arrangement, for people to subscribe to a monthly EV ‘package’ that includes charging costs, is also in the works.