Leading the charge

One of the many consequences of the COVID pandemic is that it has exacerbated certain trends in the way people live their lives and conduct business. It has also meant that certain global issues have assumed greater importance; a clear example of this is the recent Government announcement bringing forward the target date for phasing out petroleum fuelled vehicles by 2030. This has naturally led to an increased interest in electric vehicles, but also in the provision of the facilities and infrastructure that will need to be rolled out on a large scale over the next decade in order to meet that demand.

This first article in our mini-series on electric forecourts looks at the first bespoke electric forecourt in the United Kingdom, which was opened at the beginning of December at Braintree in Essex, by Gridserve, one of the pioneering operators within this emerging sector.

Photo Credit – The Guardian

The interesting thing about the Braintree forecourt, and indeed the electric forecourt sector as a whole, is that although its essential purpose is to provide charging facilities for electric vehicles, operators don’t make a profit from providing this service, because electricity can be supplied cheaply and is far less profitable than selling petrol.

In order to create a viable business model, electric forecourt providers have to offer a range of facilities, so for example at the Braintree facility, Gridserve teamed up with Gourmade, WH Smith, Costa Coffee and the North West food convenience chain Booths, as well as providing lounges, high speed Wi-Fi facilities and even a wellbeing centre. In the future, such forecourts are also likely to incorporate battery energy storage systems (BESS), whereby energy can be stored on the site and resold and redistributed to the Grid, enhancing the viability of these operations.

Electric forecourts depend critically upon the “dwell time” that people choose to spend there and will be dependent in the future on people treating a trip to the forecourt as a destination, where they can potentially spend time, meet people, have a coffee or do some shopping and generally carry on a range of activities which would not traditionally be associated with a typical PFS retail outlet!

Our second Real Estate Blog will look at some of the key land-based and commercial considerations for operators looking to develop such outlets and the third will look at them in terms of a potential alternative asset class.