Green technology firm Gridserve has unveiled a £1bn programme to construct more than 100 “Electric Forecourts” across the UK, which combine renewable energy, battery storage and rapid chargers to meet the needs of electric vehicle (EV) drivers.
Backed by the UK Government’s £5bn Energy Investment Portfolio, the Electric Forecourts project aims to simultaneously spur demand for EVs while increasing the UK’s renewables capacity – which reached record levels in 2018.
The forecourts will offer a range of charging stations for private fleets, taxis, buses and heavy goods vehicles as well as passenger EVs. Gridserve claims it will take less than 30 minutes to charge most vehicles, while a range of 500kW chargers will potentially offer charging times of less than 10 minutes for cars.
Gridserve has secured sites for 80 forecourts and multi-megawatt batteries will be installed onsite to provide balancing and grid services to support the charging needs for EVs. The batteries will be able to store low-carbon power from solar farms that are currently being developed by Gridserve.
Two industrial-scale solar farms and a 27MW battery storage facility are set to be installed in York and Hull before the end of next year. Jointly funded by Investec Bank and Leapfrog Finance – and being developed without the need for subsidies – the two solar farms will have a combined capacity of 62MW.
The first of the solar farms, a 34.7MWp hybrid solar farm in York, will feature a 27MW battery and is due to come online in October, with construction set to begin immediately. A second 25.7MWp solar farm will then be installed in Hull, with plans for a battery array at the site yet to be finalised.
The projects have been developed in partnership with Warrington Borough Council at a cost of £62m, but are expected to generate £150m in returns over the project’s lifetime.
Gridserve’s chief executive and founder, Toddington Harper said: “We plan to make charging electric vehicles as easy as using petrol stations. The latest generation of electric vehicles are awesome, and ready for mainstream adoption, but drivers still worry about if or where they can charge, how long it will take, and what it will cost.
“Within five years we plan to have more than 100 Electric Forecourts in use, with each supported by solar energy and battery storage. This infrastructure will accelerate the electric vehicle revolution, serve the grid, and help the UK meet climate and clean air targets. We are partnering with operators of fleet vehicles, developers, financiers of vehicles and infrastructure, EV manufacturers, retailers, local authorities, and others who share our vision.”
An app is being developed by the company to help drivers plan journeys and reserve charging slots. Each forecourt is expected to include up to 24 ultra-fast charging bays, with the batteries able to support maximum charging requirements simultaneously. A new queuing system will also minimise waiting times, Gridserve claims.
The company has partnered with ChargePoint – operators of the world’s largest EV charging network – and engineering and design firm Arup to create the forecourts.
Gridserve’s announcement will help steer the conversation around EVs towards that of opportunity, rather than barriers.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (Bloomberg NEF) has predicted that EVs will account for more than half of new car sales by 2040. However, the research noted that the pace of the EV revolution could be hindered by far slower investment growth in infrastructure. Similarly, the Department for Transport has identified a lack of charging infrastructure as one of the three biggest barriers to EV adoption in the UK, along with distance travelled per charge and vehicle cost.