The company building two massive new solar farms in Yorkshire has revealed plans to install the first of a new UK-wide network of forecourts which aim to charge electric cars in super-fast time.
Work is about to start on the York solar farm on 198 acres of agricultural land at Boscar Grange, Easingwold, followed by a second farm on 131 acres at Bilton, near Hull, as part of a £1bn programme.
Gridserve claims vehicles will be charged in less than 30 minutes, with customers, who can reserve slots in advance, able to while away the time shopping and in an airport-style lounge.
Chief executive Toddington Harper said they planned to make “charging electric vehicles as easy as using petrol stations.”
He said drivers still worry about where they can charge, how long it will take, and what it will cost, but within five years they intend having a network of 100 forecourts, each with up to 24 spaces, “that will make it easier and cheaper to use an electric vehicle than a petrol or diesel alternative.”
Mr Harper - who ironically was named by his parents after a service station on the M1 - said he had been driving electric cars since the outset and experienced a few “extremely hairy moments” through lack of infrastructure.
“What we are doing is looking to absolutely fix that problem, providing a place that’s dedicated to electric vehicles, and has lots of spaces as opposed to one or two.
“We then build added facilities to make it an enjoyable place to hang out - a nice, warm, safe environment that’s the opposite to being on the side of the motorway, freezing cold. In the future it will take more like 15 minutes to charge a car or less.”
The solar farms will use more efficient “bi-facial” panels, which generate energy on both sides, and turn in the direction of the sun.The energy will be stored in huge battery arrays and fed back into the grid, at times of high demand, which also commands a higher price.
Mr Harper said: “The size of the battery we have in the York project is 30 mega watt hours which is big - like 11 40ft shipping containers full of batteries.
“Some of the energy will go into the grid, some batteries. Some of the energy in the batteries will go into the electric forecourt. It means we will be able to go from the field directly to the vehicle which is pretty awesome.
“You can support a whole new generation of new electric vehicle charging without impacting the grid, which is already quite constrained and wasn’t built for what we are currently using it for.
“We can be very sure to say this energy is clean because we generate it.”
He believes key to increasing the uptake of electric vehicles “is to drive down the cost as far below petrol and diesel as possible.”
Fossil fuels were “stored sunlight from millions of years ago.” “They are working that hard to get energy from the middle of the earth, meanwhile the sunlight is falling on their shoulders. It is quite ironic really,” he added.