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Take a look inside the new Norwich Electric Forecourt

Published:
6:00 AM May 1, 2022

It is only the second of its kind in the country and has put Norfolk on the road to a petrol-free future. So what is the county’s brand new electric car service station actually like? DERIN CLARK went along to find out

It looms over the Postwick Hub, at the junction of the A47 and NDR, looking like something from the future – and the impression from inside is similarly sci-fi.

The Gridserve Electric Forecourt, on the outskirts of Norwich, opened on April 21, allowing motorists to charge their electric and hybrid vehicles, while they relax with a cup or coffee.

In the ten days since it opened, Phil Ray, 49, from Dunston has already used the forecourt twice.

Phil Ray, 49, from Dunston, at the Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.
– Credit: Archant 2022

“I first used it a few days ago because I drove past and saw that the covers had come off, so I thought marvelous,” he said.

“Having a focal point like this in this part of the country I think is well overdue.”

The Tesla owner said that he found using the charging points “very easy”.

He added: “I brought my daughters here. It was straight after the school run so they were in the car and I said ‘oh, right, let’s go and check it out’.

“I put some power in the car and treated them to a drink from Costa and a cake. It was nice.

“I said to the lady at the till, ‘I’ve got a feeling that we’re probably going to be regulars’.”

Tesla cars being charged at the Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.

Tesla cars being charged at the Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.
– Credit: Archant 2022

Along with 36 charging points for vehicles, the site also has a Costa Coffee, an M&S Food and a WH Smith.

Inside, there are places where people can sit and have a meal or work on laptops. There is super-fast wifi and a pair of bookable – soundproof – meeting pods.

Daniel Smith, 36, stopped off at the forecourt with partner Corinne Eady, 36, and daughter Summer, two.

Daniel Smith, 36, with his daughter Summer, two, at the Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.

Daniel Smith, 36, with his daughter Summer, two, at the Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.
– Credit: Archant 2022

The family were traveling to Great Yarmouth from their home in Kent.

Mr Smith said: “We’re going to Great Yarmouth on holiday. I’ve currently got a Tesla so we stopped at this garage.

Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.

Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.
– Credit: Archant 2022

“The services are lovely. It’s very organised.”

Although close to the A47, the site looks out over countryside and allows customers to enjoy views through floor to ceiling windows.

Mr Smith added: “It’s very picturesque. It feels like something from the future. It’s exciting.”

Electric cars being charged at the DC current charge point, up to 350kw, at the Gridserve forecourt

Electric cars being charged at the DC current charge point, up to 350kw, at the Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.
– Credit: Archant 2022

The facility, on the Broadland Gate business park, features solar panels on its roof which, along with other sources of reusable energy, power the building.

It also has a rain water harvesting system for its taps and toilets.

Chris Ward, general manager at Gridserve.

Chris Ward, general manager at Gridserve.
– Credit: Archant 2022

And Chris Ward, the general manager, said that for the outside areas the company employs a biodiversity expert to select the most appropriate types of plant.

The site has 22 ultra-fast 350kW chargers, each of which can add up 100 miles of range to a car in five minutes.

These cost 45p per kilowatt hour (kWh) to use. Gridserve says this is the cheapest price for such rapid charging speeds across the public network.

It is almost twice what it will cost per kWh to charge at home but the higher capacity means much shorter charging times.

There are also Eight ‘Tesla Superchargers’ which can currently only be used by Tesla’s cars – although this could change in the future.

The remaining six devices are lower power units, which cost 39p per kWh. These will cater for older electric cars to ensure that the earliest adopters can continue to use the site.

Each charger allows for contactless payment.

Gridserve plans to build 100 such electric car service stations across the country by 2030, when a ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel cars is introduced.

Inside the Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.

Inside the Gridserve forecourt at Postwick.
– Credit: Archant 2022

WHY NORWICH?

The location is the second Gridserve Electric Forecourt to be opened in the UK, coming 16 months after its flagship forecourt opened in Braintree.

The city was chosen due to its lack of existing infrastructure, and to encourage the take up of electric vehicles (EVs).

Toddington Harper, the CEO of Gridserve – and who is named after Toddington services in Bedfordshire – said: “If people don’t currently drive an EV, a location like this can incentivise uptake.

“Norwich is very underserved for electric vehicle charging and just 1pc of motorists in the area have an EV, significantly below the national average. We can deliver greater impact here than in an area that is already well served.”

Since the Braintree site opened, EV ownership in Essex has increased by 82pc, which is more than double the UK’s average rate of growth.

One feature of the Braintree site which has not been retained for the Norwich service station is a set of exercise bikes which, when pedalled, generate a tiny amount of electricity for the car chargers.

The company found their use by customers was low and has decided not to repeat the gimmick.

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