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Britain’s first electric car forecourt opens today in Braintree, Essex

Britain’s first electric car forecourt has opened today with on-site exercise bikes giving drivers the chance to help charge their vehicles.

Gridserve’s pioneering Electric Forecourt is located near Braintree, Essex, and is the first of 100 sites to be built across the country in the next five years as part of a £1billion nationwide programme.

The service station features 36 EV charges, shops including a WH Smiths and the Post Office.

Topping up your car’s battery could cost less than £10, but takes up to 30 minutes at a time – leaving plenty of time for motorists to hop on an exercise bike and generate some power for the carbon-neutral site.

Britain’s first electric car forecourt opened near Braintree, Essex, today, with the capacity to recharge the batteries of 36 plug-in cars simultaneously

The ground-breaking site - the first of 100 planned for the next five years - is located in Braintree, Essex, adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A13

The ground-breaking site – the first of 100 planned for the next five years – is located near Great Notley, just off the A131

The bikes are plugged into the £10million forecourt’s grid, while there is also a gym and a wellness area for visitors to practice yoga.

Gridserve founder and chief executive Toddington Harper claimed the project will help ‘move the needle on climate change’.

He said: ‘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.’

The aim is to provide a reliable and comprehensive network of charging stations to supply the growing number of electric vehicle drivers.

Gridserve says the site is carbon neutral as it generates electricity using renewable energy, including the solar panels on the station’s canopy and the bespoke retail building’s roof.

The site also has a 60-acre solar farm some 44 miles down the road in Clay Hill, Bedfordshire, that produces a whopping 10 gigawatt-hours (gWh) a year – enough to power 5,000 electric vehicles annually.

Energy is stored on-site in six megawatt-hour batteries, and if the forecourt needs to import energy from the grid it resupplies the network with green energy to ensure it retain its net-zero carbon pledge.

With Boris Johnson rubber-stamping a ban for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, already surging demand for EVs is set to sky-rocket in the next decade and beyond.

However, among the major concerns with electric vehicle ownership is range anxiety and the lack of charging infrastructure.

Gridserve says it will ease that burden with the proposal of building over 100 of these sites across Britain in the next five years.

Gridserve founder, Toddington Harper, says the site will be able to charge all electric cars on the market as well as those for the future. It will cost around £10 to replenish a vehicle, but could take up to 30 minutes

Gridserve founder, Toddington Harper, says the site will be able to charge all electric cars on the market as well as those for the future. It will cost around £10 to replenish a vehicle, but could take up to 30 minutes

The dedicated site has been produced specifically for EV owners, though is open to those with cars with internal combustion engines if they want to lean more about battery cars

The dedicated site has been produced specifically for EV owners, though is open to those with cars with internal combustion engines if they want to lean more about battery cars

There are 36 charging devices in total. They range from 7 kilowatt-hour (kWh) devices to 22kWh chargers suitable for the likes of the Renault Zoe

There are 36 charging devices in total. They range from 7 kilowatt-hour (kWh) devices to 22kWh chargers suitable for the likes of the Renault Zoe

There are 90kW rapid chargers and even 350kW devices. Six on-site Tesla Superchargers, dedicated to owner's of the US car brand, are also available

There are 90kW rapid chargers and even 350kW devices. Six on-site Tesla Superchargers, dedicated to owner’s of the US car brand, are also available

The only vehicle capable of accepting 350kW charging is the Porsche Taycan electric sports car, but Gridserve says the inclusion of the devices will 'future-proof' the site

The only vehicle capable of accepting 350kW charging is the Porsche Taycan electric sports car, but Gridserve says the inclusion of the devices will ‘future-proof’ the site

At the groundbreaking location – which is adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131 and with links to Stansted Airport, Chelmsford, Colchester and the busy M11 motorway – is 36 charging devices in total.

Mr Harper seen charging a Honda e electric supermini at the state-of-the-art Braintreee Electric Forecourt

Mr Harper seen charging a Honda e electric supermini at the state-of-the-art Braintreee Electric Forecourt

They range from 7 kilowatt-hour (kWh) devices to 22kWh chargers suitable for the likes of the Renault Zoe and there are also six Tesla Superchargers.

In addition, there are 90kW rapid chargers and even 350kW devices.

The only vehicle capable of accepting charge from the latter system is the Porsche Taycan electric sports car, but Gridserve says the inclusion of the devices will ‘future-proof’ the site. 

The powerful devices should replenish the batteries of the latest plug-in models in between 20 and 30 minutes – in which time drivers can head into a state-of-the-art building with shops including a Costa Coffee, WH Smith and Booths high-end supermarket. 

The facility also includes a waiting lounge, free superfast WiFi, high-end washrooms, dedicated kid’s area, a well-being zone with exercise bikes that generate electricity, and business meeting room pods.

It will also be used as an educational centre for electric vehicles, with a number of models on site for visitors to poke around.  

Drivers can pay for electricity at the forecourt using their debit or credit card. The initial cost will be 24p per kWh of charging, which is currently the lowest ultra-high power charging rate on the market.

It means a typical charge from 20 per cent battery capacity to 80 per cent costs under £10 for the average electric vehicle.

The powerful devices should replenish the batteries of the latest plug-in models in between 20 and 30 minutes

The powerful devices should replenish the batteries of the latest plug-in models in between 20 and 30 minutes

While owners are waiting for their EVs to charge, they can head into this state-of-the-art building with shops including a Costa Coffee, WH Smith and Booths high-end supermarket

While owners are waiting for their EVs to charge, they can head into this state-of-the-art building with shops including a Costa Coffee, WH Smith and Booths high-end supermarket

Drivers can pay for electricity at the forecourt using their debit or credit card. The initial cost will be 24p per kWh of charging, which is currently the lowest ultra-high power charging rate on the market

Drivers can pay for electricity at the forecourt using their debit or credit card. The initial cost will be 24p per kWh of charging, which is currently the lowest ultra-high power charging rate on the market

A typical electric car battery can be charged from 20% capacity to 80% for around £10

A typical electric car battery can be charged from 20% capacity to 80% for around £10

The operator says it will also introduce a membership scheme in the future, which includes an annual fee and reduced rates. 

The company has already secured exclusivity at 100 site, and planning applications for two additional forecourts in Uckfield and Norwich East have also been submitted.

All forecourt destinations will be located on busy routes and near powerful grid connections close to towns, cities and major transport hubs.

Mr Harper adds: ‘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.’

Gridserve says the site is carbon neutral as it generates electricity using renewable energy, including the solar panels on the station's canopy and the bespoke retail building's roof

Gridserve says the site is carbon neutral as it generates electricity using renewable energy, including the solar panels on the station’s canopy and the bespoke retail building’s roof

The site also has a 60-acre solar farm some 44 miles down the road in Clay Hill, Bedfordshire, that produces a whopping 10 gigawatt-hours (gWh) a year - enough to power 5,000 electric vehicles annually

The site also has a 60-acre solar farm some 44 miles down the road in Clay Hill, Bedfordshire, that produces a whopping 10 gigawatt-hours (gWh) a year – enough to power 5,000 electric vehicles annually

Energy is stored on-site in 6 megawatt-hour batteries. These can be seen here on the far right of the site, enclosed in fencing

Energy is stored on-site in 6 megawatt-hour batteries. These can be seen here on the far right of the site, enclosed in fencing

If the forecourt needs to import energy from the grid it resupplies the network with green energy to ensure it retain its net-zero carbon pledge

If the forecourt needs to import energy from the grid it resupplies the network with green energy to ensure it retain its net-zero carbon pledge

Commenting on the opening of the Braintree charging station, 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 £2.8billion of support to encourage the uptake of zero emission vehicles, there has never been a better time to make the switch.’

Retailers on site have been described as the 'best of British'. With vehicle charging usually taking between 20 and 30 minutes, there are enough facilities to keep drivers entertained

Retailers on site have been described as the ‘best of British’. With vehicle charging usually taking between 20 and 30 minutes, there are enough facilities to keep drivers entertained 

The facility also includes a waiting lounge, free superfast WiFi, high-end washrooms, dedicated kid's area, a well-being zone with exercise bikes that generate electricity, and business meeting room pods

The facility also includes a waiting lounge, free superfast WiFi, high-end washrooms, dedicated kid’s area, a well-being zone with exercise bikes that generate electricity, and business meeting room pods

It will also be used as an educational centre for electric vehicles, with a number of models on site for visitors to poke around.

It will also be used as an educational centre for electric vehicles, with a number of models on site for visitors to poke around.

The operator says it will soon introduce a membership scheme. This will require an annual fee to use the dedicated site but supplement users with reduced rates

The operator says it will soon introduce a membership scheme. This will require an annual fee to use the dedicated site but supplement users with reduced rates

As well as opening the charging forecourt, Gridserve’s Essex hub has also launched the UK’s first net-zero emissions EV leasing service in partnership with Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC. 

The service is designed to bring the cost of driving electric well below that of petrol or diesel cars, and minimise the environmental impact of EVs.

Access to the forecourt is included in the monthly leasing payments.

Gridserve says this ‘removes a key barrier to mass EV adoption’ as it enables people to accurately compare the cost of leasing a petrol or diesel vehicle, plus fuel, with an electric vehicle with fuel included. 

‘This reflects the true overall cost to the consumer, which in most cases clearly demonstrates a lower cost for EVs than petrol or diesel vehicles,’ it said. 

Founder and chief executive of Gridserve, Toddington Harper, says he was named after Toddington Services in Bedfordshire

Founder and chief executive of Gridserve, Toddington Harper, says he was named after Toddington Services in Bedfordshire

The company has already secured exclusivity at 100 site across the country, and planning applications for two additional forecourts in Uckfield and Norwich East have also been submitted

The company has already secured exclusivity at 100 site across the country, and planning applications for two additional forecourts in Uckfield and Norwich East have also been submitted

All forecourt destinations will be located on busy routes and near powerful grid connections close to towns, cities and major transport hubs, Gridserve says

All forecourt destinations will be located on busy routes and near powerful grid connections close to towns, cities and major transport hubs, Gridserve says

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

‘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,’ Mr Harper said.

‘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.’

Electric models from Audi, BMW, DS, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Mini, Nissan, Renault, and Volkswagen will be available.

Robert Gordon, CEO of Hitachi Capital, said the leasing partnership is a ‘total game-changer’ for electric mobility. 

He added: ‘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.’ 


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