Season 3, Post 21: TOWIE (or, The Only Way Is Electric)
Drive just over 50 miles north east of London and you reach Braintree in Essex. This county of England is home not just to the long-running reality TV show…
Season 3, Post 21: TOWIE (or, The Only Way Is Electric)
Drive just over 50 miles north east of London and you reach Braintree in Essex. This county of England is home not just to the long-running reality TV show, “The Only Way Is Essex” (known familiarly to its fans as TOWIE), but it is also where Britain’s drivers can find the country’s first all-electric charging station. Although the electric forecourt – as its owners prefer to describe it – first opened in December last year, with most lockdown restrictions having just ended, business is only now beginning to build. Your author visited recently and was impressed.
The secular case for electric vehicles is well understood. Today, transport accounts for around 25% of global CO2 emissions (per the IEA). Against this background, many countries across the world have committed to phasing out fossil fuel vehicles by the middle of this decade at the latest, or 2030 in the case of the UK. Although there were just 7m electric cars on the road globally in 2020, by 2030 this figure could reach 240m (per estimates from Barclays). Gridserve – the private owners behind Braintree’s electric forecourt – are therefore perhaps on to something. The UK currently has over 8,300 petrol stations (per Fuels Europe). Even with the electric charging model being effectively multi-modal (users can charge from home, on-street and in electric forecourts), conventional stations will clearly need to adapt. An enthusiastic employee told your author that Gridserve currently has plans to open another 20 UK outlets this year – the next likely to be in Norwich – and more than 100 by 2026.
As the photographs attest, the Gridserve proposition in Braintree is a compelling one. The design of the venue is undoubtedly futuristic. The 36 principal charging stations are housed under a roof comprising solar panels, while the main building has been designed apparently to resemble an airport. The thinking behind this approach is to make a visit to Braintree an experience. Since it currently takes around 20 minutes of charge time to add 200 miles of range to your vehicle, the forecourt has been deliberately adapted to offer a wider range of services than a traditional station. Drivers can wait in a lounge that is not totally different to an airport equivalent, equipped with super-fast WiFi and exercise bikes for hire (social distancing restrictions permitting). The retail offering is also markedly superior to that of a more conventional petrol station.
Ultimately though, it comes down to cost. The Gridserve employee with whom your author spoke said it was possible to charge an average-sized electric vehicle from 20% to 80% for no more than £10 ($14). When the question was put to the employee whether there had been any negative customer feedback at Braintree, his response was that “people bring their normal cars here and are disappointed when they can’t charge them.” As we noted earlier, the only way is electric.
25 May 2021
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. The author of this piece has no personal direct investment in the business. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
Alex Gunz, Fund Manager
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