GRIDSERVE, a sustainable energy company, is building an electric vehicle recharging forecourt

I remember it well, the launch of the fleet vehicle-targeting Nissan Primera dual fuel, running on LPG with a fossil fuel backup (or the other way round). This was around 2003 and I was working for Nissan UK; one of the regular questions we used to have to deal with from the public asked where on earth they could refuel with LPG. While some councils and similar large organisations deemed it cost effective to decide to construct their own LPG refuelling stations, this didn’t help those reps working for smaller companies burning up the miles on the UK motorway network.

LPG fuelling station

The Primera conversion consisted of a reinforced ‘donut’ that was constructed to be crash proof, but there were still many who were wary of the keyword combination of ‘combustion’ ‘engine’ and ‘gas’. Inevitably, it became clear that LPG refuelling was going to be a problem that was not going to be resolved quickly, and the LPG/dual fuel option pretty much petered out for regular car use.

Fast-forward to 2020 and we are heading rapidly towards an EV world, with electricity considered safer and more readily accessible. The technology is improving at a rapid rate too, making the negatives ever decreasing. One negative remains though – are there enough recharging stations to make a complete changeover viable?

I suspect the honest answer to that is ‘not yet’ but news has come of an intriguing project being constructed in Essex. GRIDSERVE, a sustainable energy company, is building an electric vehicle recharging forecourt on 25 acres of land in Great Notley near Braintree. GRIDSERVE say that the massive EV recharging station will be able to cater for up to 24 vehicles at any one time, with the station being run on solar power along with a battery storage network. It is set to open in the summer as a forerunner for further large recharging stations to be built across the UK, around 100 in fact. If all goes to plan, this will indeed start to address the question of an electric charging infrastructure – the lack of which so far is at odds with the Government’s push for net zero emissions on our roads and for the UK to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The EV forecourt is being part-paid for by a Government grant of £4.86 million from Innovate UK. GRIDSERVE say that the forecourt and the planned rollout will allow electric vehicles to become mainstream at the earliest opportunity.

Large EV Charging Forecourt Being Built in Essex (2)

Charging costs are as yet unknown, though GRIDSERVE describe the plan to provide ‘ultra-fast, low cost charging’ provided by superchargers delivering up to 350kW of power. This would allow full charging to be completed within half an hour, with the hope that the time taken will decrease in time. The use of solar energy is part of the reason GRIDSERVE believe that they can keep recharging costs low.

I know what you’re thinking: what do drivers do for half an hour while their EVs recharge? The forecourt complex will also house a 2-storey building where a coffee shop will be available, as well as the ability to shop; much like similar time-killing sections in airports. If learning is more your thing than shopping, then the facility will also provide an education centre for all things sustainable relating to energy, so you can leave with a smug grin knowing that you are doing a good thing.

Large EV Charging Forecourt Being Built in Essex (3)

The full 100-plus electric forecourt programme will eventually cost in excess of £1 billion, which should go some way to alleviate public concerns over the Government’s plan to eradicate fossil fuel vehicles within the next 15 years.

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