Describe the origins of Fastned and how the business has developed?
Founded in 2012, we’re now 11 years old. We started in the Netherlands with the vision of providing as easy a journey as we could for electric drivers, and doing all we can to accelerate the change to sustainable mobility. Today, we have more than 270 fast charging stations across Europe – in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland and, of course, 16 here in the UK.
We’re up to our seventh iteration of charging layout now, many of which have the ‘drive-through’ approach with our famous yellow solar canopy. We put safety at the forefront of our design – with clearly visible stations, in popular areas, with good lighting, protection from the elements, and CCTV. We want people to recognise our chargers, associate them with reliability, fast charging and comfort. We’re there to get you back on the road again quickly.
Our mission is to have 1,000 locations across Europe by 2030, and (of course) the UK is a key part of that.
How does Fastned choose where to set up a charging hub in the UK?
Fast charging means we don’t need to focus on the number of charging points, which are on the rise, but instead to ensure we have fast charge points at the places people need them. There are different requirements of fast-charging and slow-charging stations on the street, in car parks and at dedicated stations – so having the right support and grid infrastructure in place is essential.
We focus on installing our fast charge points at the places people need them most. This might be off of major A-roads, roundabouts or just outside of city centres.
Of course, to build our sites, we also need the support of local councils when filing for planning permission, and to have quick access to a grid connection.
What is the major barrier to rolling out more charging hubs quicker and faster in the UK?
Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s grid connections. Fastned has the heritage, product and investment to lead the EV transition in the UK, but only with the right conditions. We believe we can build more of our market-leading sites, encourage safety across the market and alleviate range anxiety with a larger network if the grid connections process is made quicker and more efficient.
There is high customer demand for our stations, we had 96% more active customers in 2022 versus 2021. However, a wait of up to two to four years to connect to the national grid, we can only open as quickly as connections allow.
What additional support could the UK Government provide to help EV charging infrastructure providers?
We need additional help from the UK government to speed up planning applications. Some councils are fantastic in how they approach this and how they evaluate our applications, enabling faster rollout, but others can take more time. It’s often a case of education – this is a relatively nascent area after all. We need planning officers and local government officials – those who make the decisions – to be educated on the market and the industry and to fully understand the need and benefit of electric charging and the different requirements of fast-charging stations, like ours, and slow-charging stations on the street and at car parks.
We would also like to call for a trial of a Trusted Provider Status, which would be awarded to charge point operators (CPOs) who build quality sites so that planning does not get in the way of developments that might benefit local communities. This would support swifter approvals, and allow the quicker rollout of charging points.
Likewise, how can the industry work better together to push through reform?
With the launch of ChargeUK a few months ago, I am increasingly confident that we can both get the message across that the network is making good progress, but also the hurdles we are facing.
So, I think we’re doing a great job working across the sector – but we need to collaborate more between the sectors that enable EV charging. Energy providers must play their role in supporting infrastructure rollout – the limit to our ambition in the UK is down to slow access to the grid. Grid connectors and CPOs need to be working in partnership, not competition.
Tom Hurst, Fastned UK Country Manager