Sainsbury’s launches Smart Charge EV network at stores

Sainsbury’s has today (12 January 2024) launched Smart Charge, a brand-new, dedicated electric vehicle charging business that will give drivers access to ultra-rapid EV charging points across its stores in the UK.

The move illustrates the retailer’s commitment to the EV industry while providing an exciting new service for drivers. Smart Charge is the first and only EV charging business to be fully owned and managed end-to-end by a UK supermarket. The state-of-the-art charging technology and equipment is provided by Kempower.

In new research commissioned by Sainsbury’s, 80% of EV users admitted to avoiding long journeys because of not wanting to charge at public EV charging stations, describing the main frustrations as chargers being broken (40%), not enough charging bays (36%) and speed of service (33%). Designed to mitigate these frustrations, Smart Charge will initially feature over 750 cutting-edge ultra-rapid charging bays rolled out across more than 100 stores by the end of 2024, putting Sainsbury’s in the top five providers of ultra-rapid charging in the UK. 

Ultra-rapid is the fastest type of EV charging currently available on the market but a third (32%) of EV drivers surveyed said they have yet to benefit from using it. Designed to be extremely speedy, reliable and easy to use, Sainsbury’s 150kW Smart Charge bays with Kempower chargers allow users to fully charge their vehicle in as little as 30 minutes, providing enough power to travel up to 200 miles. Many of the chargers can also charge even faster if a driver’s vehicle battery can accept higher charger speeds, up to 300kW.

Smart Charge also offers a solution to the one third (32%) of EV drivers who expressed frustrations at having to wait with nothing to do at public chargers. With Smart Charge, customers can make the most of both the speedy service and the option to pop into a Sainsbury’s store to pick up some groceries or grab a coffee while they wait.  

While 74% of EV users currently use multiple EV charging brands, a huge 94% said they would prefer to use just one trusted and reliable brand. When asked why, the top reasons included reliability (63%), convenience when planning long trips (54%) and awareness of cost upfront (53%). 

Recognising the desire for a trusted EV charging brand in the UK and the benefits for customers of being able to charge their vehicles while doing their shopping, Sainsbury’s believes the convenience, speed and reliability of Smart Charge will represent a game changer for EV users.

Already available at more than 20 Sainsbury’s stores, Smart Charge offers spacious, accessible bays open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year which are compatible with fully electric vehicles. New charging hubs with Kempower technology will be added to the Smart Charge network throughout the UK regularly.

Patrick Dunne, Sainsbury’s Director of Property, Procurement & EV Ventures, said: 

“As EV ownership continues to grow, it’s shocking to see that an incredible three quarters of EV drivers still suffer range anxiety and many have avoided journeys as a result.

“With our new network of easy-to-use and reliable charging points conveniently located in our supermarkets, Smart Charge will make a real difference to EV drivers in the UK. As one of the few providers to be focusing exclusively on cutting-edge ultra-rapid 150kW+chargers, customers can be in and out in as little as half an hour and avoid waiting longer with less powerful alternatives. What’s more, they can even grab a coffee or pick up some groceries while they’re there.

“We’re committed to reducing our carbon emissions and reaching Net Zero in our operations by 2035 and offering a national EV charging service forms part of this pledge. Our new charging points are powered by the same 100% renewable electricity that powers the rest of our estate*.” 

Anthony Browne, Minister for Technology and Decarbonisation for the UK, said: 

“Businesses play a crucial role in the delivery of EV infrastructure, so it’s great to see Sainsbury’s embracing ultra-rapid technology which will benefit supermarket customers. 

“Together with industry we’ve supported the installation of over 52,600 chargepoints across the UK, an increase of 44% from last year.”

Tomi Ristimäki, CEO of Kempower said:

“It’s great to see a respected and strong brand like Sainsbury’s taking a responsible approach to promoting e-mobility and making everyday life easier for EV drivers. We see that increasingly, EV drivers want to charge their cars where there are services available. With over 99% charging uptime, we are committed to providing convenience and ease of charging – key words in accelerating e-mobility.”

The service is intended to help advance the uptake of electric vehicles in the country, supporting the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy. The launch represents another step in Sainsbury’s ambitious commitment to achieving Net Zero in its own operations by 2035 and Net Zero across its value chain by 2050.

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