Gridserve submits planning application for first of 100 'electric forecourts'

Construction of 'electric forecourt' in Braintree, Essex targeted to begin this year

Gridserve has submitted a request for planning permission to build its first 'electric forecourt' – a large electric-car rapid charging hub that could offer charging speeds of up to 500kW – near Braintree in Essex.

The site is next to the planned location of the Horizon 120 Business & Innovation Park at Great Notley. Gridserve's application includes 24 charging bays, a coffee shop, convenience store and an "airport-style" lounge with high-speed internet, which will also serve as an education centre and hub about electric mobility.

The site is planned to have dedicated zones for both private and fleet vehicles, such as taxis, buses, delivery vehicles and heavy goods vehicles. Drivers will be able to minimise waiting times by booking ahead via a smartphone app. The app will also facilitate journey planning and handle payment for on-site services such as the food outlets and car washes.

Commenting on the application, Councillor John McKee, cabinet member for corporate transformation at Braintree District Council, said: “We’re delighted that Gridserve is looking at a site next to Horizon 120 to locate their very first ‘Electric Forecourt’ which will not only serve the businesses relocating to our park, but also all the residents in our district thinking about switching to green energy. 

"This eco-friendly facility fits in with our vision for the park – to create a forward-looking business community with emphasis on long-term sustainability and future proofing to facilitate modern ways of living and working.”

Gridserve has seven other locations – including ones in York and Hull – earmarked to start construction soon, however final planning permission applications have not yet been submitted for those. The firm's long-term plan is to build 100 stations in the UK, each offering up to 24 charging bays with speeds as high as 500kW. Charging at the Braintree location will be 350kW initially, with the potential to upgrade to 500kW.

Speaking to DrivingElectric at the recent Oxford EV summit, CEO Toddington Harper said: "We haven't closed a whole package yet on any of the sites, but we're in the process of working through it with investors. Nothing is done until it's done, but it's looking very favourable – there are a number of entities we're working with and a strong desire to make it happen."

Gridserve claims charging prices will be "competitive with and complementary to home and destination charging", with the company set to construct a number of solar farms next to its sites to "ensure that 100% of the electricity is green and low-cost".

Extensive battery storage systems will also form part of Gridserve’s new infrastructure, and it's promising sites will have the power capacity to allow all 24 points to charge vehicles at the maximum rate simultaneously.

Harper said in March that 100 Electric Forecourts would be operational “within five years”, with the aim of accelerating the “electric vehicle revolution” and helping the UK meet emissions targets. Gridserve says it'll work with a range of partners, including charging company ChargePoint and engineering and design firm Arup.

The 500kW charging speed target is well in excess of today’s fastest rapid chargers: the Tesla Supercharger network delivers around 120kW, with a new 250kW system being rolled out at the moment. The IONITY fast-charging network promises up to 350kW, with around 40 sites planned for the UK by 2020.

Currently, the fastest charge any car will accept is the 150kW enabled on the Audi e-tron. The Porsche Taycan – due in 2020 – will be compatible with 350kW charging.

The Gridserve project is one of 11 in a £5 billion portfolio of energy schemes selected by the Department of International Trade to promote global investors. When it was launched, Minister for Investment Graham Stuart MP said: “As well as creating jobs and prosperity, these projects will reduce bills and deliver huge benefits for the environment.”