UK’s first electric car charging forecourt opens

First of 100 planned electric car-only service areas has opened in Essex, offering 36 electric car chargers, plus shops, cafes and relaxation areas...

electric car service station

A new electric forecourt near Braintree, Essex aims to bring added convenience to electric car owners and make electric vehicle (EV) charging as simple and stress-free as using petrol stations. 

Instead of the rows of petrol and diesel pumps you find in conventional service stations, the electric forecourt, which is just off the A131, has 36 EV chargers, including six Tesla Superchargers. Twelve of the other chargers are capable of operating at up to 350kW, so they can add 200 miles of range to a car in as little as 20 minutes. 

If drivers need assistance with charging or technical information about their vehicle, there is a phone next to every charger, which can be used to call a dedicated helpline manned by EV experts from the AA.

While drivers are waiting for their cars to charge, they can relax and shop in the two-storey building on site. On the ground floor there are a number of shops and cafes, and on the first floor there’s an airport-style lounge, business meeting room pods and a wellbeing area. The facility has free superfast wi-fi. 

There's also an education centre attached to the main building where people can find out more about EVs and even buy or lease one. 

Electric vehicle service area

Toddington Harper, Founder and CEO of Gridserve, which is behind the project, said: “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 (new) petrol and diesel cars.”

James Cleverly, Minister of State and MP for Braintree, added: "Gridserve’s Electric Forecourt is the most advanced charging facility in the world and is pioneering the world-class infrastructure required to support our policies and drive the confidence we need to make the move to sustainable transport in the UK.”

With forecourts sited close to highly populated areas or busy transport routes, the electric forecourt network will be powered by zero-carbon solar energy and battery storage projects. To achieve this, Gridserve is developing several large solar farms as part of a Sun-to-Wheel initiative that ensures that 100% of the electricity used at its forecourts is renewable and, from the grid’s perspective, sustainable, as they're also near high-capacity grid connections. 

The company owns the Clayhill Solar Farm in Bedfordshire, which provides the energy for the Braintree Electric Forecourt. The Braintree site is part of a £1bn programme to develop a UK-wide network of 100 or more Electric Forecourts over the next five years.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Best electric cars 2020

Electric cars are now entering the mainstream, accounting for one in 10 new car sales in August. And their rise is only going to accelerate as rules are introduced to limit the kind of vehicles allowed into major cities.

So, which electric cars should you consider? Here, we count down our top 10 and tell you the one to avoid.

10. Seat Mii Electric

Seat Mii Electric 2019 front cornering

If you're looking for a small electric car to use primarily in the city, the Mii Electric should definitely be on your shortlist. It might not have the battery capacity – and therefore range – of some alternatives, but that means its price is lower, and the 111 miles that it managed in our Real Range test is still enough for many people's needs.

Polestar 2 front cornering - 2020 car

The second model from Volvo spin-off Polestar (hence the name) is a thrillingly quick electric executive car with an exquisite interior and the ability to go a long way between charges. Just bear in mind that the similarly-priced Telsa Model 3 Performance is better to drive, more practical and has access to a better charging network.

See the full top 10 >>

Also consider