Branson-Backed Gridserve to Set Up Car Superchargers Across U.K.

A company backed by British billionaire Richard Branson plans to build electric-vehicle charging hubs that can fuel a car with enough power in five minutes to drive 100 miles.

Gridserve Holdings Ltd. aims to install 50 supercharging hubs in the U.K., with 10 expected to be ready this year, the company said in a statement. The 100 million-pound ($138 million) investment could be a game changer for those consumers reluctant to buy EVs because they fear running out of juice on long drives.

The southeast England-based company wants to create an electric highway of chargers just as sales of EVs are projected to increase because of a government ban on new gas- and diesel-guzzling cars starting in 2030. To ease driver anxiety, the government wants every motorway service station to have at least six fast-chargers by 2023.

“We’ve got more people wanting to use our chargers than there are chargers, so we need to get the new hubs in quickly,” Chief Executive Officer Toddington Harper said in an interview.

There are now about 12 million passengers EVs on the road globally, according to BloombergNEF. With governments under pressure to reduce emissions and with battery prices falling, annual EV sales are expected to increase from 3.1 million units in 2020 to 14 million in 2025. The leading markets include China and Europe, according to BNEF.

Gridserve announced June 8 it acquired Ecotricity Ltd.’s national network of electric chargers. The company wants to finish upgrading all of them at 150 locations by September.

Gridserve opened the first electric-only service station last year and is building solar farms to produce clean electricity for its charging network. The company, with backers including Branson’s The Rise Fund and Hitachi Capital, currently has 100 megawatts of solar generation, with another 50 megawatts about to go into construction, Harper said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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