The much-maligned Electric Highway motorway recharging network is set to be transformed by one of the leading names in electric forecourts - GRIDSERVE. The British firm has just agreed a deal that will see the existing network of broken and unreliable and slow charge units replaced and supplemented by all-new 350kW ultra-rapid units.
The programme will have two stages, one of which is already underway. In the first phase, all existing chargers will be replaced with new units, doubling the capacity and offering all three connection types (CCS, CHAdeMO, and AC) along with contactless payment for the first time. In the second phase an additional six to 12 350kW pumps will be installed. A number of units have already spotted a number of unbranded chargers being commissioned, including new unbranded units at Cherwell Valley on the M40.
electrifying.com understands that this will initially take place in locations that have the most suitable network connections. More remote locations built in the early 1970s may require grid upgrades to achieve the amount of power required. The brand new Moto services at Rugby is the first to go live with a bank of Electric Highway and Tesla chargers taking up an entire side of the car park.
In an official press release, GRIDSERVE confirmed that funding for the program is being provided by Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC, a shareholder in GRIDSERVE. As part of the collaboration, GRIDSERVE has taken a 25% stake in the Electric Highway and will bring its front and back-office technology and expertise to the upgraded network, which will also have 24 x 7 support.
Commenting on the news, Dale Vince, Founder, Ecotricity, said: “I’m a fan of GRIDSERVE’s Electric Forecourt concept, their vision and passion in this space. To be able to work together to make sure the Electric Highway continues to lead the electric car revolution in Britain is an exciting prospect.”
Toddington Harper, CEO, GRIDSERVE, added: “I’ve been driving an electric vehicle for eight years, and the Electric Highway was the network that originally made that possible. It’s therefore a huge privilege for myself and GRIDSERVE to take a role alongside Ecotricity in the next evolution of the Electric Highway. The new network will feature all of GRIDSERVE’s world-leading technology to ensure that electric vehicle charging is straightforward, anxiety free, and delivers an awesome customer experience”.
The Electric Highway was launched in 2011 to enable early electric cars to drive the length and breadth of Britain – back when charging was by three-pin-plug, and 7kW was considered fast. Since then, charging standards have leapt to 50kW, then 150kW and the new state-of-the-art 350kW, while the range of new electric cars has leapt from 80 to 300 miles or more. This technical progress along with rapid price convergence of new electric cars with their fossil counterparts, has led to more than 200,000 electric cars on UK roads today and over 10% of all new car sales being electric.
However, the new network is likely to face competition at motorway service areas from new competitors following government intervention. The official regulator of monopolies, called the Competition and Markets Authority, has begun a market study into the car charging market and is looking closely at the situation on Britain's road network.