Sustainable Energy

Work starts on the UK's first electric vehicle forecourt with 'superchargers'

Key Points
  • While electric vehicles are becoming popular with more drivers, they do face challenges, not least when it comes to perceptions surrounding range. 
  • The last few years have seen several big firms invest in electric vehicle charging companies. 
Carlos Sanchez Pereyra | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Construction work on a charging forecourt for electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.K. has begun, as efforts to boost infrastructure for zero- and low-emission transport options ramp up.  

The new facility, located near the town of Braintree in Essex, will have the capacity to charge 24 electric vehicles at once, according to sustainable energy firm Gridserve, which is behind the project.

It will be the first of its kind in the U.K. Meanwhile, last September, a gas station in Takoma Park, Maryland became the first in the U.S. to move from selling petroleum to exclusively charging electric vehicles.

In a statement Tuesday, Gridserve said the British forecourt would open this summer and use "superchargers" able to provide up to 350 kilowatts (kW) of power.

This would allow electric vehicle users to charge their vehicles in 20 to 30 minutes, with faster times expected as battery technologies develop.

The time it takes to charge an electric vehicle varies and is dependent on several factors, including the type of charger being used.

According to Pod Point, an independent provider of electric vehicle charging, a typical electric car will take a little under eight hours to go from an empty to full charge using a 7 kW charging point. The firm adds that some cars would be able to add as much as 100 miles of range in around 35 minutes if a "rapid charger" of 50 kW is used.

The Gridserve forecourt will be powered by zero carbon solar energy and battery storage projects, Gridserve said. Looking ahead, it has plans for more than 100 electric vehicle forecourts in the U.K.

Battery electric vehicle registrations in the U.K. grew to 37,850 in 2019, an increase of 144% compared to 2018, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

While electric vehicles are becoming the car of choice for an increasing number of drivers, they do face challenges, not least when it comes to perceptions surrounding range and charging infrastructure.

The market share for battery electric vehicles in 2019 was just 1.6%, while hybrid electric vehicles had a 4.2% share, according to the SMMT. At the other end of the spectrum, petrol — or gasoline — had a market share of 64.8%, while diesel was 25.2%.

Efforts are underway in the U.K. to address this gap. At the start of February, the U.K. government said it wanted to end the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars by the year 2035.

Around the world, a shift in attitudes is also taking place. Norway, a world leader in electric vehicle adoption, is home to more than 10,000 public charging points, according to the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association.

Several big firms are also investing in charging businesses. These include oil giant BP, which acquired EV charging business Chargemaster in 2018. Now known as BP Chargemaster, the firm offers more than 7,000 charging points on its Polar network in the U.K.

Elsewhere, last August Norway's state-owned energy business Statkraft acquired E-Wald GmbH, a German electric vehicle charging firm. And in 2018, the Oslo-headquartered business became a majority shareholder in eeMobility, another German EV charging company.