Electric car charging: an opportunity for garden centres?

There are 11,700 electric car-charging points across the UK but only eight at garden centres, so more can be done to take the opportunity in garden retail.

In July, the Government confirmed it will end the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, as it unveiled new plans to tackle air pollution.

This means that electric charging points will be increasingly in demand, especially since registrations of pure electric cars have increased by 105 per cent from July 2016, according to statistics released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders.

Berwick and Dunbar Garden Centres owner Nick Crabbie is an electric car owner and has a charging point at both centres. He says: "The uptake in electric vehicles will only increase if there are widespread and numerous electric vehicle charging points available."

"It is all about convenience and environment. It is surprising that more garden centres have not installed charging points as they can be used to attract new customers and earn sales whilst the cars are charging."

Klondyke has one charging point at its head office in Polmont and one at Carlisle. Chief executive David Yardley says they are not expensive to install.

Polmont was funded by a grant from the Scottish Government. Klondyke applied for the grant through its installer, Everwarm, and the charging is managed by Chargemaster.

Yardley says: "The head office one really doesn’t get used very often, but I think that it will inevitably become an essential as electric cars become more common."

New planning applications need one or two electric car charging points as a necessity before the plan will be approved in Scotland.

Yardley adds: "There are not that many right now, but an increase will come with demand. If the customers demand the charging points, the centres will provide them, but as of right now there’s just no demand."

Expense

The points are expensive to do independently and a business cannot make money from the charging points that were paid for by Government grants for two years.

The self-installed point in Houghton Hall, Carlisle, employs a token system, whereby tokens for using the points are purchased from inside the garden centre itself. 

Dobbies says electric charging points are a very good idea. Electric cars are the future, particularly in cities. It can see them coming, with the new Government policy. The question is: how quickly?

There are three electric charging points at two Dobbies centres and one each at Blue Diamond Redfields, Glendale Wooler, Poplar Tree Woolmer, Klondyke Polmont, Berwick and Dunbar Garden Centres.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling says: "We are taking bold action and want nearly every car and van on UK roads to be zero-emission by 2050, which is why we’ve committed to investing more than £600m in the development, manufacture and use of ultra-low-emission vehicles by 2020."

Pre-orders for the new Tesla model 3, a moderately priced fully electric car, are already at 500,000 globally.

Astounding growth

A representative for electric point installer ChargedEV says: "The industry has been growing at an astounding rate, especially with the Government announcing the ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. The recent acquisition by OVO Energy and our partnership with Chargemaster, the UK’s leading provider of charge points, allows them to grow quickly, they say.

"The market was growing beforehand anyway in an attempt to create a more sustainable future, as it is widely known that petrol and diesel vehicles can damage the earth."

On the low number of points at garden centres, the representative adds: "There is potential and a need for us to grow in that sphere, but the onus is not just on business owners to install these points. Business owners must work alongside the Government and the suppliers to come together to make a greener UK."

A grant from Government body the Office for Low Emission Vehicles can provide up to £500 off the initial cost of installation of charge points. There are restrictions — the business must have private, off-street parking and the electric vehicles must have been purchased after April 2015 — but 99 per cent of businesses have no problem qualifying for the grant.

Shell has started installing fast-charging electric stations in its fuel stations after confirming its partnership with the company Allego in 2017.

Garden Centre Association chief executive Ian Wylie says: "It’s up to the individual garden centre to determine if it is beneficial or not. By introducing it, it might add to the value of the centre. I’m not surprised that the number of garden centres with charging points is low, but I am a little surprised that it’s as low as it is.

"Garden centres are not on main road locations, as they are often the destination and not something you visit passing through. They aren’t that popular overall, as I’ve only seen one charging station in big-brand supermarkets in the past 12 months." Wylie suggests their number will increase as demand increases.                                               

A recent EVBox survey showed that 51 per cent of electric drivers switched because they want a more sustainable future. When asked what is currently a barrier, 55 per cent of respondents cited the unavailability of charging points, while 56 per cent agreed that more charging points are needed in retail and shopping facilities, such as garden centres.


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