Gridserve opens new Gatwick site with 30 EV chargers

Gridserve opens new Gatwick site with 30 EV chargers



The site has 22 ultra-fast chargers, adding 100 miles of range in 10 minutes

First major charging hub at a European airport is Gridserve’s third in UK; more to quickly follow

Gridserve has opened a new EV charging hub at Gatwick, claiming it's the first such large-scale facility at a European airport.

The British company's third hub, after those in Braintree and Norwich, is on the airport's approach road, just off the M23 between London and Brighton. 

Claimed to be "one of the most advanced electric car charging facilities in the world", the new facility is equipped with 30 chargers, 22 of which use ultra-fast CCS connectors and can supply rates of up to 350kW, adding as much as 100 miles of range in 10 minutes.

Four Tesla Superchargers have also been installed but are yet to be energised. 

Speaking to Autocar at the site’s launch, Gridserve CEO Toddington Harper said: “Our goal is to give people confidence to charge on the motorway network as quickly as they possibly can with a minimum of six high-powered chargers. 

“We want people to get the confidence that they can go anywhere in the country without any stress and in an excited way, because they know that they're going to have great charging facilities with the right amenities.” 

The facility is supplied directly by the national grid, but Gridserve tops the grid back up with an equivalent amount of energy generated by its own solar farms, such as that in Cirencester, which at its peak generates 23MW. This will make the Gatwick hub effectively powered entirely by renewable energy. 

There's also a 6MW battery on site to increase power supply at peak times.

The chargers are connected to the internet, so users can check availability and individual charge levels from elsewhere.

Harper said this showcases Gridserve's plans to embrace "smart connectivity" as it expands its offering. 

Soon, it will advise customers on which locations they should stop and charge at (and at which times) during longer journeys or give them an alternative recommendation if the closest is full.

Harper said: “We're not just providing electric vehicle charging but also looking at the power side. We're supplying net-zero energy. We build solar farms, for example. 

“In the UK, for every acre of land, if you build one solar farm, you can generate more than a million miles of EV charging per year. And not only that, but we've also discovered that it gets generated at pretty much the same time as you need it, because we’re using our own charging network.”

The Gatwick hub is said to bring a five-fold increase in the availability of chargers at the airport's South terminal. It's equipped with an Amazon grocery shop that does without staff, a Costa, meeting rooms, and toilet facilities.

A helpline is available 24 hours a day and Gridserve's on-site 'gurus' can help customers during working hours.

It also joins the firm's other forecourts in being equipped with a simulator that allows customers to virtually sample an EV if they're looking to buy one.

Harper said: “When you turn up here in a petrol car, it feels a little bit old-school. That's a very different level of experience that we've been able to achieve with sites like this, versus only a few years ago, when people said that they need the experience to be as good as petrol stations. But we think we want better. We want better across the UK.” 

The site isn't exempt from the airport's parking restrictions, meaning users will be able to stay for only one hour at a time to avoid a fine, regardless of the charge state of their EV.

Gridserve has promised that any profits from overstay fines will go towards planting trees.

Construction has begun on the brand's fourth hub, located at the Knebworth estate in Stevenage. Plans have also been confirmed to expand the offering to Scotland and Wales, with a site confirmed for Rutherglen, outside Glasgow.

Gridserve will also introduce 1MW charging for heavy goods vehicles by next year, although most will begin at 360kW before power is increased over a three-year period. They're likely to be constructed at the firm’s most-used sites, such as motorway service stations.

Harper said: “The project runs between now and just over a year from now. So we will launch within the next year or so, basically, but we're working on the first solutions right now – many of them.”

*Q&A: Toddington Harper, CEO, Gridserve*

*What's your reaction to the UK government missing its target for the roll-out of public EV chargers?*

“It's very complex. The government target was very helpful in aligning us and all of our partners to really achieve a goal. My view now is that in terms of what we've already achieved and in addition to what's coming, the charging on the motorway network is probably the best charging network now in the country.”

*Where do you stand on battery-swapping technology?*

“My expectation is that within this year, cars will be turning up that can charge at 350kW. And if you can charge a vehicle in five minutes or a comparable time as it would take to swap the battery, then why would you need to go through all of that additional complexity? We'll wait and see if it makes sense.”

*Could you rival the Birmingham Gigahub, which can charge 180 EVs at once?*

“I would say we're already exceeding that, certainly in terms of power. If you have a 7kW charger, which is what most of the charges are on the [Birmingham] site, then you would need 50 of those for every one 350kW charger that we install.”

*How will you make these chargers reliable?*

“We probably already have the highest reliability of any network. We’re charging almost 200,000 vehicles a month across the busiest locations, and those need to be operating 24/7. The good news is we're winning. We've got to a point where we're now at 99% reliability and availability of the network.”

*What would you say to someone who has never driven an EV before and doesn't trust the infrastructure?*

“Three years ago, we created the EV charging ‘hierarchy of needs’. The base level is new chargers. The next level up is that they need to be incredibly reliable. And then you need to create desire, which is the stage we’re at now: working hard to make it as easy as possible for the customer.”

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