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THE UK’s first Electric Forecourt near Braintree, Essex, has opened representing a major breakthrough for massive expansion of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.

The site is the first of over 100 Electric Forecourts being built by GRIDSERVE over the next five years ahead of the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars. The company’s £1bn UK-wide programme aims to make EV driving an enjoyable, ultra-convenient and stress-free experience.

Toddington Harper, Chief Executive of GRIDSERVE, 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 – a full decade ahead of the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars.”

The Braintree site, adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131, enables 36 electric vehicles to be charged simultaneously, with high power chargers that can deliver up to 350 kW of charging power, enabling people to add 200 miles of range in 20 minutes, and much faster in the future as electric vehicle battery technologies mature.

Together with GRIDSERVE, the project has been funded by Hitachi Capital (UK), Innovate UK and OZEV.

The Electric Forecourt is part of GRIDSERVE’s wider ‘sun-to-wheel’ infrastructure, built to deliver low cost, net zero carbon energy to every vehicle that uses one of its chargers. 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 Braintree Electric Forecourt, providing 100% renewable energy via the National Grid. 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, helping to maximise the value of renewable energy resources, stabilise the grid, and keep prices low.

Drivers charging at the Electric Forecourt will initially pay just 24p per kWh of energy (including VAT), which is currently the lowest ultra-high power charging rates on the market today – meaning a typical charge from 20% to 80% costs under £10 for an average-size electric vehicle on the market today. GRIDSERVE has plans to introduce a tiered pricing structure in the future.

While vehicles charge, drivers can relax and shop in facilities operated WHSmith, Costa Coffee, Booths, Post Office, and Gourmade. The facility also includes a waiting lounge, free superfast WiFi, high-end washrooms, dedicated kid’s area, wellbeing area with exercise bikes that generate electricity, and business meeting room pods.