Gridserve EV Driving Days: Try before you buy

Parkers electric cars

  • Gridserve launches EV Driving Days
  • A range of brand new models to try
  • Scheme starts on 16 July
Gridserve charger

Gridserve’s flagship Electric Forecourts have already provided a glimpse into one of the possible futures for electric car drivers in Britain. Launched in Norwich and Braintree, they’re the pilot programme for a much wider rollout across the UK, supporting Gridserve’s ambition to be the electric vehicle infrastructure provider. To get more drivers into an electric car, it’s launching its new EV Driving Days initiative.

There is, it seems a day for everything. Star Wars Day (May the 4th… be with you). Puppy Day. Talk like a Pirate day. And, of course, ‘EV Awareness Day’. The day to encourage greater understanding of electric vehicles has been chosen as 16 July, and Gridserve’s announced a new electric car test drive programme to support it.

Despite the focus on 16 July 2022’s launch, Gridserve Test Drives isn’t a one-day event – it is an ongoing service with plans to offer a variety of electric cars to try from one location. You can book a slot at either of the two sites.

What can you drive?

Adding to the obvious benefit of comparing cars back-to-back, Gridserve hopes to bypass the traditional dealer barriers of sales pressure or restricted demonstrator availability. As well as saving potential electric car buyers the legwork of visiting multiple sites on multiple days when choosing their next car, it also introduces the aspiration of a Gridserve forecourt, which has facilities such as post offices, gym and shops, as well as rapid charging.

The initial range comprises Nissan Leaf, Mercedes-Benz EQB, Polestar 2, and Tesla Model 3 and Model Y but will be expanded to include smaller cars such as the Vauxhall Mokka-e in the near future. Gridserve is starting out with a more showroom-style test drive model, so the focus is on comparing models on a similar route, but with ‘Gridserve Gurus’ on hand to discuss aspects of EV ownership.

Polestar 2

The future of EV ownership?

Gridserve currently covers over 85% of the UK with its charging infrastructure, and its national network of motorway, public and private chargers includes the former Ecotricity points (receiving significant upgrades including contactless charging). Ranging from the wallbox-esque 11kWh to rapid 350kW DC charging that can recharge the latest tech in the time it takes to enjoy a coffee, it’s merely the foundation for a more ambitious programme with over 100 locations planned for Electric Forecourts.

The eagle-eyed will notice that the EV driving days are part of a leasing portal for Gridserve, and there is indeed an extensive range of electric cars available through the company. Currently the deals are at the higher end of competitive pricing (at the time of writing the UK’s car market has lost the oversupply and discounting many owners had become accustomed to from lease brokers) but these all appear point towards a longer plan, a bigger picture.

Just as you can go to an Apple Store and finance the mind-blowingly expensive top of the range iPhone, you can buy a car from the manufacturer and generally get the least competitive bundle, or the highest monthly costs, unless there is a very specific promotion on.

But many users don’t buy the iPhone that way. They go to a network provider, and get a low monthly payment, and added features, and infrastructure that makes the phone useful. It may be a tired analogy, but it’s apt; the electric car is an appliance that users have yet to be fully familiar with and the backup matters.

Tesla Model 3

With Gridserve’s Electric Forecourts intended to be a venue for more than merely charging your electric car, there’s a potential space for routine servicing and diagnostics, reassurances that your car is working correctly, independent information if it’s not. And, regardless of brand, if you lease a car through Gridserve you get some free charging included, much like getting bundled data on your phone contract.

If Gridserve does want to become a one-stop-shop for electric cars on a monthly payment, how could that happen?

Users of the Gridserve network may already be aware of the AA partnership that ensures onward travel if a Gridserve charger has failed you. AA also provides diagnostic and vehicle inspection services, so it would make sense for them to complete the package available at an Electric Forecourt, also providing backup for Gridserve’s leased fleet.

We’re getting a glimpse into a future away from the lifestyle and brand aspirations of manufacturers here, and it could be the key to making EV ownership consistent across the nation. Not just for access to charging infrastructure, but also the ease of trying different models free from the geographic limits of a specific dealer network and the inevitable financial clout of a large fleet operation providing monthly subscriptions to cars.

That’s a long way off, though?

It is, and we’ve put a lot of thought into what could happen – what we have now are the Electric Forecourts and the multi-brand test drives. It seems inevitable that someone is going to go down this route, though, and Gridserve seems well on the way to building that framework. Infrastructure, and electric car companies, could learn a lot from consumer mobile phone networks that sprang up out of once very expensive specialised services.

For now, though, if you’re visiting Braintree or Norwich you have an opportunity to try a variety of electric cars without the pressure of visiting a sales team or showroom, and there’s a route to lease if you choose to (or advice on electric cars if you’ve yet to decide) – plus a real-world demonstration of how charging can work within your journeys.

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