UK’s first electric car charging forecourt opens to the public, powered by Microsoft Azure and Dynamics

The UK’s first Electric Forecourt has opened in Essex.

The site in Braintree features a retail space, with brands including WHSmith, Costa Coffee, Booths, Post Office, and Gourmade. The facility also includes a waiting lounge, free superfast WiFi, a dedicated kid’s area, wellbeing area and business meeting room pods, so drivers can keep busy while their car charges.

GRIDSERVE, which operates the Electric Forecourt, sources all the energy from a 10 MWp solar farm 44 miles away that can produce enough energy to drive 5,000 electric cars every year.

The entire site is run using Microsoft technology. The Azure cloud platform and Microsoft 365, including Teams, is used by HR, field service, sales, marketing and customer service teams to collaborate and communicate. Azure and Dynamics 365 is used to securely store and analyse vast amounts of data, such as how much energy the Electric Forecourt is using.

Toddington Harper, Chief Executive of GRIDSERVE, said the site was only one part of a sustainable energy ecosystem that his company his delivering.

“The Braintree Electric Forecourt represents a major milestone in achieving GRIDSERVE’s purpose to deliver sustainable energy and move the needle on climate change,” he said. “We have made charging an electric car as simple as filling up a petrol or diesel car. You drive to the forecourt, plug your car in and pay with a contactless bank card – until now, that’s something you rarely find with today’s charging infrastructure.

An aerial view of GRIDSERVE's Braintree site

The site in Braintree features a retail space, with brands including WHSmith, Costa Coffee, Booths, Post Office, and Gourmade

“While people charge their car, they can get a coffee or a sandwich, or look at our Electric Vehicle Leasing Solutions that we have launched today with Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC. Included in those leases is the energy to charge at our Electric Forecourts, which brings the cost of owning an electric vehicle well below that of a petrol or diesel car. We have also committed to planting 100 trees for every car we lease.”

The unveiling comes just weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that new cars and vans powered wholly by petrol or diesel will be banned in the UK from 2030. It is part of the Government’s “green industrial revolution” that will also include grants to help people buy electric cars and a £1.3bn investment in charge point infrastructure.

Harper added: “We want to make it simple for anyone anywhere to drive any type of electric vehicle without any inconvenience and at a lower cost and with a better experience than using petrol or diesel cars. Our Braintree Electric Forecourt is the first of more than 100 sites across the UK designed to achieve these objectives.”

The Braintree site enables 36 electric vehicles to be charged at full power simultaneously, with high power chargers that can deliver up to 350 kW of charging power, enabling people to add 200 miles of range in 20 minutes, and much faster in the future as electric vehicle battery technologies mature. The range of chargers on site are able to charge any electric vehicle on the market.

Electric cars charging at GRIDSERVE's Braintree forecourt

The Braintree site enables 36 electric vehicles to be charged at full power simultaneously

As well as the solar farm providing net zero carbon energy for cars, the site also has a solar panel canopy above the chargers… and people can even generate their own energy for the site’s batteries by using the exercise bikes in the fitness area.

Marie Abery, Microsoft Dynamics Business Group Director, said: “Microsoft has made significant investments in sustainability over the past decade, and our customers are also reducing their carbon footprint by switching to Azure. By using Dynamics 365, Gridserve will be able to manage their sales, marketing and service functions to support the Braintree forecourt and gain valuable insights into their operations to make them even more efficient and greener. I’m proud that Gridserve has chosen Microsoft to help them on their business journey.”