You have warned that far more energy will be needed for EV charging by 2030. What can be done to achieve this and is there enough engagement from the Government and National Grid?
Sadly there has not been enough joined up engagement from the government where they bring together the power companies, the motorway service operators and the chargepoint operators. There is a need to bring the three together and do a very simple thing which is to say: “Here is the forecast for the number of EVs that there is going to be by year, tell us what is the amount of power and the number of chargers that you're going to need to deploy by year.”

And then with the power companies in particular, guarantee that you've got plans in place to provide that amount of power by that time period. Having got that joined up plan and shared targets agreed you can then go to landlords and local authorities and say that from a planning perspective you need to allow motorway operators to be able to put this amount of power and this number of chargers on their sites by this date.

It’s mindblowing the scale of power that will be required for EV charging just for Moto. We believe that between 27% and 33% of cars in the UK will be an EV by 2030. So one in three cars coming to Moto in seven years’ time will be an electric car, and the power that we believe we'll need to deploy is about 240 megawatts. This is equivalent to 25% of the power produced by the average-sized nuclear power station. Given that we’ve only got nine nuclear plants in the country, to be able to provide just Moto with that kind of power shows the challenge we face.

The EV charging infrastructure is not just motorways, it's A-roads, it's towns and cities and this is a once in a generation shift in mode of transport. I suspect the last time was when people moved from the horse and cart to automobiles, and now they're changing from ICE cars into electric vehicles 

I don't think the government really understands the scale of the responsibility in putting in place a completely new infrastructure. It needs to give people the confidence that wherever they travel in the UK there will be a sufficient number of charges available, and that those chargers are reliable and working. Our view at Moto is that it should be high-powered chargers that are as fast as technology will allow you to charge.

Currently we have deployed 506 chargers overall with 325 high-powered and 181 being medium-powered and AC chargers. We are aiming to have a total of 954 chargers by end of year - 773 high-powered and 181 medium-powered and AC chargers.

Ken McMeikan says: "I don't think the government really understands the scale of the responsibility in putting in place a completely new infrastructure."
Ken McMeikan says: "I don't think the government really understands the scale of the responsibility in putting in place a completely new infrastructure."

Does the nature of your customers at Moto who are travelling on motorways mean you have a more pressing need to deploy ultra-rapid chargers?
I think motorway service areas are the most beautiful fit for EV charging. The number one reason for people using them is the need to stop and go to the toilet. The second is for food and drink, the third is tiredness on a long journey, and the fourth is for fuel. So people are already stopping on average 20 minutes. Ultra-rapid chargers can deliver 100 miles of charge in five to ten minutes, so you can get a full charge in not much longer than you are already staying. That’s why we have back ultra-rapid changers as we think that is what motorway drivers will want.

In addition to rolling out ultra-fast chargers, we have retained and upgraded our legacy chargers. Our Pease Pottage services on the M23 has the legacy of the two 50kw chargers, six open access ultra-rapid chargers through Gridserve, and this month it will have 16 Tesla chargers, and then we will then put another 12 to 16 Gridserve ultra-rapid chargers alongside the existing six that are there.

Our Gridserve chargers are open access to any EV, but the Tesla ones are for Tesla cars only at the moment. Tesla are running open access charging pilots in other parts of Europe but they haven’t made a decision on this yet. 

Is the UK national grid capable of producing the extra power that will be required to charge the rapidly growing number of EVs on the roads?
This is the concern that I have, I don’t know. The power companies and the government are not making it clear how much power is there currently. By 2030 I want an average of at least 30 ultra-rapid chargers on Moto sites, but there are parts of the country where we already struggle to get the power required just to get six on.

I estimate there is going to be a twelve times increase over the next seven years in the UK demand for power required for EV charging.

Jesse Norman [Minister of State in the Department for Transport] has brought the power companies together for a roundtable this year, and he did the same with the motorway service operators, but he’s doing it in isolation. I have said to him that unless you have a joined up plan and we are clear about exactly what the demand is, we won’t have the power to be able to put the chargers in at the time the demand is there. Where we are going to see the lack of a clear plan from the power companies is when you get to peak periods. We saw it over Christmas 2022 and to a degree at Easter, and we will definitely see it again over the Summer.

If you don’t have sufficient chargers down come peak travel you will end up with significant queues and frustration. This will rock the confidence of other drivers to switch to an EV.

The government should be making sure we have adequate power ahead of the curve to inspire the confidence of people to make the move.

Power is the key. I can get the chargers, the funding and the investment, those are not the issues right now. The issue is sufficient power at the time you need it, and in all parts of the country. The government are also missing an opportunity to get power from clean energy sources. If they had the vision they could be working with motorway service operators to look at how you build that power from solar power and wind farms.

At Moto we are already looking at how we can build solar farms alongside our motorway service areas so that the power for the chargers is coming direct from source rather than necessarily relying on the power companies.

The power that will be required for our new Exeter charging hub that will give us the potential to go to 100 ultra-rapid chargers is 8 megawatts. This is equivalent to the power that would be required for between a quarter and one third of all the homes in Exeter itself. 

How prominent is Moto in the UK EV charging point rollout?
With our ultra-rapid charging hubs at Rugby, Exeter and now Wetherby, we have already built a reputation with EV drivers because we were first to roll these out at scale.

We are using Tesla and Gridserve chargepoints and their reputation is incredibly strong. I’m convinced that when we deploy our new Exeter charging hub in July, which is three times what we deployed at Rugby, it will really build momentum further.

From our research with EV drivers, about 80% plan exactly where they are going to stop to charge, and with us having more than 20 charging superhubs we are building that reputation with EV drivers.

What unique challenges does deploying EV charging infrastructure at out-of-town motorway service locations present?
The biggest one is the major infrastructure transformation that needs to be made to get the scale of power required to our sites. We had one charging hub where the power company needed to lay eight miles of cabling to reach our site.

Also, we calculate there is going to be a significant increase in turn-in rates - of about 50% - to motorway service areas, combined with a longer dwell time due to EV charging. What people are going to want therefore are more services, facilities and a great experience. This is why we have been investing in our toilets which is the main use facility, and we are rolling out more food and drink brands such as KFC and Greggs, so there is a wider choice. We are also looking at the new experience that is going to be required for the different types of EV drivers. At Rugby we introduced indoor children’s play areas because, for example, a family travelling over the holiday period is having to spend longer getting their car charged.

The next big challenge for us is going to be HGV drivers. What is the clean energy that HGVs are going to transition to, whether hydrogen or electric, that we will have to provide at our sites? These are huge power projects and I suspect that Moto is now starting to become a power company in our own right rather than just a motorway service operator because of the amount of power we are deploying. We are spending around £250m just on upgrading our facilities around EV charging and that doesn’t include the power.

Rugby was our first new service station in 13 years, but we are now opening Exeter and have planning permission for two more. The Exeter site currently has 33 chargers, 28 of which are ultra-rapid and in around a month this will be increasing to 56 350kw ultra-rapid chargers which will be the biggest concentration in the country.

How has rolling out EV charging infrastructure benefitted your business?
We have an ambition to lead in helping the UK decarbonise, and I think our reputation from an ESG [environmental, social, and corporate governance] perspective is being enhanced. We have dispensed a total of 1.4 million EV charges at Moto, which is equivalent to removing 44,739 tonnes of CO2 saved in EV miles (June 2021 to end of May 2023).

We have more than 120 million customers a year and 60 million vehicles, and increasingly consumers are looking at companies and the impact they are having on the environment. By taking the lead and investing in decarbonisation through EV charging I think our reputation is being enhanced.

There is an increased need to come to motorway service areas as the range of an EV is less than an ICE car. By providing the charging and the confidence you can get a charge we are further enhancing our reputation. With more frequent turn-in combined with longer dwell time we should see increased spending, but only if you provide great facilities which is why we are investing so heavily.