Huge boost to UK car charging: Plans revealed to upgrade motorway network with 300 rapid devices to make electric cars feasible for more drivers

Plans to significantly bolster the nation’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure were revealed this morning – and it make will plug-in vehicle ownership more feasible for an increasing number of drivers.

Gridserve, the British firm behind the UK’s first dedicated charging forecourt for electric cars opened in Essex, in December, has today announced plans to revolutionise the availability of chargers on the UK’s busiest routes, as part of its new Electric Highway scheme.

It will see every vehicle charging device at motorway services replaced with more dependable and faster-charging technology by September, but also add 50 high power ‘Electric Hubs’ – each offering between six and twelve ultra-rapid 350kW chargers – at the majority of these sites.

The hubs, which are part of a new £100million investment, will spark a significant improvement to charging on motorways, which has until recently been riddled with complaints about unreliability issues under the monopoly of Dale Vince’s Ecotricity firm.

Concerns about a lack of public chargers, especially on motorways when attempting long journeys, have been one of the biggest for motorists contemplating making the switch to an electric car before the Government outlaws the sale of new petrol and diesel cars at the end of this decade.

However, Gridserve confirmed today that it will add some 300 rapid chargers in total to 85 per cent of the UK’s motorway service stations, which will allow drivers of the latest EVs to add 100 miles of range in charges taking just five minutes.

Users will be charged on a price-per-kWh basis, though there will be a premium to pay at some service stations – as is the case when drivers of conventional cars fill up with petrol and diesel.

While it costs 24p per kWh to top up an EV at Gridserve’s first Electric Forecourt in Braintree, the price to charge at one of the new Electric Hubs is 30p per kW. This will enable a typical battery car to add 200 miles of range for as little as £15.

SWARCO eVolt is supplying 45 charging units, including 11 of its Rapid Chargers capable of charging two vehicles simultaneously in 30 minutes, across 28 sites in East Lothian (Image: eVolt)

SWARCO eVolt is supplying 45 charging units, including 11 of its Rapid Chargers capable of charging two vehicles simultaneously in 30 minutes, across 28 sites in East Lothian (Image: eVolt)

Contactless payments can be made at all of the devices, rather than having to register and subscribe to the service.

The new hubs will be extensions to existing chargers that are already at sites – all of which will be upgraded by the end of the summer – and are separate from the 100 Gridserve Electric Forecourts that are set to be built across the country in the coming years.

Those behind the plans say the huge upgrade will provide drivers of plug-in cars with a ‘UK-wide network they can rely on, without range or charging anxiety, wherever they live in the UK, and whatever type of electric vehicle they drive’.

The news comes just weeks after Gridserve announced the acquisition of the Electric Highway from Ecotricity, after the Government announced plans to improve its under-performing network.

In March, the Department for Transport announced plans to break green industrialist Dale Vince’s Ecotricity monopoly on electric car charging at motorway services with legislation by 2023 that demands that all devices provide quick charge times, are reliable and can be accessed by anyone via contactless payment.

Ecotricity, until now the lone supplier of chargers at motorway service stations – has been heavily criticised by early adopters of electric cars for its unreliable and outdated hardware that has caused huge headaches for EV owners, in some cases resulting in drivers being stranded at services.

For years it has been rated the worst electric vehicle charging network in Zap-Map’s annual satisfaction rankings, including a two-out-of-five-star rating in the most recent poll – the lowest score of 16 providers, with Tesla’s Supercharger network topping the results with a 4.8 score out of five.

Commenting on the performance of the Ecotricity motorway network in the 2020 study, one electric vehicle owner said: ‘They kickstarted the market, but now they are out of date and unreliable.’

In the six weeks since Gridserve has taken responsibility of the motorway network it has installed new chargers with a minimum capacity of 60kWh at over 50 locations – an installation rate of around two new charging locations every day.

The entire network of almost 300 old Ecotricity devices at more than 150 locations on motorways and Ikea stores is due to be replaced by September, according to the British firm’s schedule.

It will mean that drivers of any type of electric vehicle will be able to charge and use contactless to pay for their charging sessions.

Read more: This is MONEY

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