End of the British petrol station is on the horizon., Electric Vehicle News Bitesize
End of the British petrol station is on the horizon., Electric Vehicle News Bitesize

End of the British petrol station is on the horizon. Britain urged to abandon iconic sights as revolution looms.

Petrol stations are predicted to be a thing of the past, as electric vehicles allow drivers to make charging more in line with their lifestyles.

As electric vehicles become more popular, drivers can incorporate charging into everyday activities, such as visiting the supermarket or while at work. That’s the view of Pod Point, the UK’s leading charging provider, which has partnered with Tesco to power hundreds of stores across the country. Their chief executive, Erik Fairbairn, said many people thought they would charge their Electric Vehicles at some kind of petrol station, but that was often not the case. Instead, he explained, charging could happen in a variety of situations to reduce the time taken out of people’s busy days.

“You have to have a network of charging points where people are going to go anyway,” he explained.

Charging options are already available in many forecourts, with Shell opening its first all-electric charging centre in Fulham. Gridserve have opened two purpose built Electric Forecourts with many more to come.

Mr Fairbairn generally said that approach could be a dead end, although petrol station-style long-distance travel options would still come into play just like Gridserve.

He explained: “It would be unfair to say that nothing is needed, but it is certainly a significant minority and the future of the UK petrol station network in 10 or 20 years does not look like what we have now.”

“It seems to me that the vast majority of petrol stations will probably no longer play a real role in the future of electric vehicles.”

In the long run, companies like Pod Point hope to install charging stations in every parking lot, but that will require a massive increase in the number of electric vehicles to encourage investment.

However, groups like the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders are sounding alarm bells about the pace of charger adoption keeping pace with Electric Vehicle demand.

The number of electric vehicles has exploded in recent years, with the group pointing to a 568.9% increase between 2019 and 2021.

In 2021 alone, one in six new registrations were Electric, with Tesla’s Model 3 becoming the second best-selling vehicle of the year, just pipped to the top spot by the Ford Fiesta.

Meanwhile, the group said the number of chargers only increased by 69.8% during the same two-year period.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have called for greater action from government to promote the rollout including setting targets and establishing an industry watchdog- ‘Ofcharge’.

Mr Fairbairn said it was “not a bad idea” but questioned whether it was the main priority at this time.

Instead, he predicts that larger corporate partnerships with charging companies working with the auto industry, as well as commercial links like Pod Points’ partnership with Tesco, will help drive the next phase of development.

A Brief History of the Petrol station: The first service station was opened by the Automobile Association in Old Marston, Berkshire, in November 1919. It had a separate hand pump and drivers were greeted by uniformed Automobile Association petrol staff. In the post-war period, the Automobile Association tried to promote the sale of British-made benzene fuel, a by-product of burning coal. While benzene was readily available in Russia, the business was hampered by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of the Bolsheviks.

The programme was a success and the Automobile Association opened seven more service stations. By 1923, there were 7,000 pumps in operation.

The oldest petrol station has not survived in its original form. However, the West End garage in the Golden Valley near the Welsh border is an important landmark. West End Garage is considered the oldest surviving petrol station, first licensed to sell petrol in 1922, becoming the second petrol station in Herefordshire. Today you can use the same pumps on either side of the garden gate of an early 19th century country house to refuel your car.

With garages everywhere these days, whether it’s the motorway or a quiet country road, it’s interesting to look back at a different era when things weren’t so simple. West End Garage, now known as Glendore, is a Grade II listed building.

There are other vintage pumps all over the country. For example, the petrol pump in the forecourt of Laurel’s workshop in Rumsbury, Wiltshire has been at the location for over 50 years. They are considered to be one of the oldest working groups in the UK.

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End of the British petrol station is on the horizon., Electric Vehicle News Bitesize
End of the British petrol station is on the horizon