Hitachi Capital is scaling up its financial support for a network of electric vehicle superchargers in the U.K. in partnership with Gridserve.
Gridserve’s model is to develop subsidy-free solar-plus-storage plants alongside a network of EV infrastructure. The first such solar site was connected to the grid in December last year: a 34.7-megawatt solar system paired with a 30-megawatt-hour Samsung battery that is being operated on an entirely merchant basis. The first of its "Electric Forecourt" filling stations is currently under construction and expected to open in the coming months.
Gridserve is targeting 100 charging sites across the country by 2025 and is also developing its next two solar farms.
Hitachi has already backed U.K.-based Gridserve to the tune of £5.6 million ($6.9 million). This will now be increased into the “tens of millions” and will cover both the EV charging stations and solar projects, a Gridserve spokesperson told GTM. Gridserve describes its targeted portfolio as a £1 billion endeavor.
Gridserve's first EV charging station in the southeast of England will have space for 24 vehicles to refill at the same time at speeds of up to 350 kilowatts. Power from the completed solar plants will cover the usage of the charging facilities. Some, but not all, of the filling stations will be directly connected to solar farms.
“The response to the current pandemic has highlighted the impact of carbon emissions on the environment,” Robert Gordon, CEO, Hitachi Capital (U.K.), said in a statement. “We now have a real opportunity, through flagship programs like this, to create the infrastructure needed to fast-track electric vehicle adoption across the U.K. and meet the government’s ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2050.”
Gridserve’s model shares some similarities to that of Pivot Power, which was acquired last November by EDF as part of its growing focus on distributed energy. Pivot is building standalone storage projects at U.K. sites with strong grid and highway access.
Speaking to GTM at the time of the first solar plant’s grid connection, Gridserve CEO Toddington Harper said there is an urgency to the company's plans. “I’m fixated on this 2030 timeframe. While 2050 is a nice target for net-zero, by then we’re going to be experiencing some pretty serious challenges in the context of climate change. We need to move the needle in the next 10 years,” he said.
Gridserve’s first solar project is unsubsidized and set a few firsts in the U.K. with its use of single-axis trackers and bifacial modules. Linking at least part of that production to EV "fuel" adds further value and improves the business case, Harper said. A third-party aggregator is working with Gridserve to maximize the revenue from those sites.
“We don’t want anything to do with subsidies; we just want real value. We want to work with people who can eke out as much of that value as possible,” added Harper.
Coronavirus puts the brakes on global EV appetite...for now
The U.K. had been expecting a big year for EVs in 2020 as policy changes starting this month allowed businesses to offer emission-free company cars tax-free.
Coronavirus could take the shine off, however. In early April, Wood Mackenzie slashed its global EV sales forecast for 2020 by 43 percent.
U.K. government figures show just over 15,000 public chargers in place today, including around 2,500 rapid chargers (the government counts anything over 43 kilowatts as "rapid"). The country will need 29,000 public chargers by 2030, according to the government’s official climate advisers. Of those, 85 percent will need be fast (22 kilowatts) or rapid (43 kilowatts). Many of the earliest installed chargers will be so slow as to be obsolete.
The number of chargers per 100,000 people across major U.K. towns and cities point to a significant disparity between London and the rest of the nation. In several London boroughs, that number is in the triple digits. In some more far-flung towns and cities, it is in the single digits or even zero.