Britain’s first dedicated fast-charging filling station for electric vehicles has opened today, kicking off what is expected to be a period of change for the UK’s forecourts as petrol-fuelled cars are phased out in coming years.

Gridserve has opened its first Electric Forecourts near Braintree in Essex, a fast-charging site with charging facilities for 36 electric vehicles simultaneously.

READ: Is the UK ready for the transition to electric cars?

With GBP1bn of funding from Hitachi Capital, Innovate UK and OZEV, it is the first in a planned network of more than 100 such dedicated electric filling stations in the next five years.

Electric Forecourts will offer fast-charging power that is designed to provide around 200 miles of range from 20 minutes of charging, priced initially at 24p per kWh of energy, which the company said is the lowest ultra-high power charging rate on the market.

Electricity for the Braintree site comes from solar panels at the site and a network of solar farms, alongside a 6MWh battery at the site (“enough energy to drive 24,000 miles in electric vehicles the following day”) to help balance the grid and allow the most profitable use of electricity.

The launch comes with Britain looking at how it is going to phase out new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and develop the necessary network of electric vehicle charging stations.

The government has pledged GBP1.3bn to accelerate the rollout of charging points for electric vehicles in homes, streets and on motorways in England, while energy supermajors BP PLC (LON:BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB) are also investing in converting their forecourts as they expect higher profits from groceries and fast food from their retail networks as motorists need to spend at least 15 minutes while they wait for their car to charge.

BP is eyeing almost 50% increase in its forecourts to 29,000 by 2030 and its EV charging network to 70,000 points as it looks to catch up with Shell, which is aiming to swell its forecourt retail network by at least a fifth to around 55,000 sites worldwide over the next four years. Shell also is an early adopter of hydrogen filling stations, as part of a partnership with ITM Power (LON:ITM).

Another London-listed player in the forecourt game is Applegreen (LON:APGN), operator of 559 sites roadside convenience sites, including 69 motorway service stations under its own brand and via majority owned subsidiary Welcome Break in Ireland, the UK and the US.

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