A glimpse into the future of the service station: GRIDSERVE at Braintree opened on 7 December 2020, and features more electric vehicle charging spots than it does traditional parking spaces.
The Hitachi-backed company claims to have built the world's first electric forecourt, with a variety of chargers including some for vehicles that haven't been made yet, as well as provision for electric motorbikes, buses and HGVs. While the site was in development for many years, it is hoping to be ready for a strong uptake in electric vehicle ownership, with the UK government having (at the time) recently banned the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030.
Inside, a small range of traditional service area facilities are available during the daytime, while upstairs is the facility to lease an electric vehicle, which the owners believe will encourage future customers. It also aims to use its size and capacity to be able to charge lower prices than the single vehicle chargers usually found in supermarket car parks.
The power for the chargers comes from renewable energy, much which is generated on-site. There are overhead solar panels which make the parking area look somewhat Mediterranean.
Under current English legislation, anywhere which doesn't sell fuel cannot be officially advertised as a service station by the highway authority. That rule would need to change if more places like this open. A few small, yellow "Electric Forecourt" signs have since been placed at Braintree which, although currently non-standard, suggest what the future standard could be.
GRIDSERVE Braintree may not live long enough to see a policy change, as it currently only has permission to operate for 30 years and would need to be returned to agriculture after that.
Catering: Costa Coffee Shops: Marks and Spencer Food, Post Office, WHSmith, Vehicle Leasing Amenities: Kids Zone, Meeting Pods, Showers Outdoor Space: No grass space; dedicated animal area at back of forecourt; public footpath connections Charging Points: GRIDSERVE Electric Highway 350kW CCS, 90kW CHAdeMO & 22kW Type 2; Tesla Supercharger 250kW
GRIDSERVE Electric Forecourt
🌍 Operators & Official Websites:
Trivia and History
GRIDSERVE's founder and chief executive Toddington Harper really is named after the motorway service area. And his brother is called Heston, too. Their parents ran a solar panel business and got them interested in renewable energy.
Braintree is the first of a number of projects already being planned by GRIDSERVE; they have pledged to deliver "over 100" overall. Naturally not all of their developments will be on major roads so they won't all fall under our remit. But the ones we are aware of are:
- Bramley (A647/A657): proposed
- Bromborough (A41): proposed
- Gateshead (A184): proposed
- Gatwick South Terminal (forecourt only): under construction
- Longbridge (M40 J15): proposed
- Markham Vale (M1 J29A): planned
- Plymouth (A386): planned
- Norwich East (A47 Broadland Gate): opened April 2022
- Stevenage (A1(M) J7): planned
- Uckfield (A22 Copwood): was proposed, but dropped in 2021
- Yeovil (A3088): proposed
|Braintree (2 miles)||Services on the A131||Chelmsford (A130, 10 miles)|