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Providing seamless connectivity for the UK’s first electric forecourts – a new era of sustainable energy

Providing seamless connectivity for the UK’s first electric forecourts – a new era of sustainable energy

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GRIDSERVE is a pioneer in the field of sustainable energy. Its current focus is the deployment of its pioneering electric forecourts across the UK’s road and motorways, providing electric vehicles with a safe, convenient and affordable way to recharge. It worked with Exponential-e to help deploy and maintain the underlying infrastructure for the UK’s first electric forecourt charging station and provide secure, reliable connectivity for both staff and visitors, fully isolated from the charging units to ensure operational resilience. Along the journey, Exponential-e has become, not just a connectivity provider, but a trusted technology partner for GRIDSERVE.

GRIDSERVE has been developing innovative solutions for transport, energy supply, industry, food and nature, ensuring environmentally friendly options can be both accessible and affordable, all over the UK. It’s been reported that electric vehicle charging points need to be deployed five times quicker so as to meet the upcoming ban on petrol and diesel cars. This put GRIDSERVE under pressure to get its forecourts up and running, and it needed a technology partner to ensure it could do so on time.

Challenges

The singular nature of this project meant that GRIDSERVE had highly specific requirements when it came to the technology partner that would help deploy and maintain the underlying infrastructure, providing secure, reliable connectivity across all sites for both staff and visitors, fully isolated from the charging units to ensure operational resilience.

With high expectations for the electric forecourts among owners of electric vehicles, it was vital that this infrastructure was not just delivered on time, ready for the planned openings, but would offer consistently high performance at all times. Furthermore, with multiple technology and construction suppliers already involved in the creation of these sites, it was essential that the connectivity provider be able to successfully collaborate and coordinate with them, in order to ensure all elements would be effectively integrated.

The specifics of the deployment – from the type of connection to the accompanying hardware requirements – had already been discussed, reviewed and confirmed, which meant it was simply a question of selecting a partner who could fulfil these requirements on time and to budget. Following a personal recommendation, Exponential-e were invited to tender and subsequently selected, having quickly established a rapport with GRIDSERVE’s own teams.

Solution

Exponential-e deployed a Layer 2 VPLS, private managed WAN across the first electric forecourt at Braintree, hosted at two data centres and secured with Fortigate firewalls, with a further 14 sites planned across the UK. While this differed from GRIDSERVE’s original specifications, Exponential-e’s deep understanding of the project’s short- and long-term goals, gained during the tender process, meant it was perfectly placed to deliver a fit-for-purpose solution. This included collaborating with other GRIDSERVE partners on fabricating custom-designed cabinets to house the specialist switching that would not only ensure a successful launch, but provide optimal scalability, in line with GRIDSERVE’s long-term plans for the development of these sites.

Throughout the entire deployment process, a dedicated account team were readily available to provide hands-on support and ensure targets were met. This consultative approach meant their role soon expanded beyond simply fulfilling connectivity requirements, as they worked closely with GRIDSERVE staff and other contractors to ensure the end result would prove fit for purpose.

Thanks to strong, sustained communication and collaboration throughout this project, Exponential-e has swiftly transitioned from acting as GRIDSERVE’s connectivity provider to a trusted technology partner. The focus of the partnership has moved beyond ensuring high-performance connectivity was in place for the first launch site to establishing a robust foundation for further expansion, with weekly meetings taking place to identify new opportunities for enhancements and innovations across the 15 sites and beyond.

In this way, the future of sustainable energy in the UK is off to an exceptional start.

Andre Pageot, Chief Information Technology Officer, GRIDSERVE, said: “I am especially happy because the journey we have just been on is an unorthodox one. The rule book to follow when deploying corporate data infrastructure has been rewritten and we did this together, teams from GRIDSERVE, Exponential-e and our partners working in tandem. Deploying into a construction site such as Braintree has been challenging every step of the way.

“I think it’s accurate to say this is your A-team and we are extremely pleased to be working with like-minded individuals, with whom we have successfully delivered what is, as far as we know, the world’s first electric forecourt, which has officially opened and I look forward to delivering the next 14 together.”

Solution benefits

  • Enterprise-grade connectivity provided for electric forecourts across the UK
  • A consultative approach ensured all specifications were fully optimised before beginning the deployment
  • Hands-on support from a dedicated account team, helping to identify numerous opportunities to enhance performance and scalability
  • Bespoke hardware, including a custom switching cabinet, successfully designed and delivered in response to project requirements
  • First site launched on time and to budget, with plenty of scope for further expansion
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