Maxol will launch three new local forecourts of the future within the next two years in line with the move towards electric vehicles.
rian Donaldson, chief executive of Maxol, told the Business Telegraph the 100-year-old company will open new sites in Downpatrick, Eglinton and north Belfast where EV charging, more services, and retail and hospitality-based outlets will be the norm.
He said: “Over the next year we will be carrying out major developments on the Crumlin Road, in Derry and Downpatrick, with another four to five locations earmarked.”
Maxol, which has over 100 forecourts here, also has plans to expand its Kinnegar site in Holywood into a neighbouring one-acre site to accommodate the growing electric vehicle market.
“What we’ve been trying to do with our EV team is get power to the right locations, ask what the cost is and work with Power NI here and ESB in the South to make sure we can get it right,” he added.
“That will take time and investment from us, but we are also aware that right now there is no business case for a super-fast rollout because we’re in a chicken and egg situation. Until a larger number of cars are battery built there will be a lag in demand.”
To gauge the demand, Maxol is using its Townparks forecourt in Ballymena as a test site. There it has installed a super-fast charger and a new payment platform.
He said feedback from full battery EV drivers will be crucial in knowing what the demand is from the public here. And backing from the Executive and other stakeholders will support a subsequent rollout of similar settings.
“At this moment in time there is a whole range of stakeholders needed to work together to make this happen,” he added.
“We, as a private family business, are happy to develop our forecourts in the right locations and we have been talking with the Department for Infrastructure and the Department for the Economy to see where funding comes from.
“It’s the Government’s responsibility to get the additional power needed to the grid. We are starting to make progress, but not as much as we’d like to be making.”
If the Executive failed to update EV infrastructure at the right speed of EV vehicle registrations, the drive to net zero could be impacted, he warned.
“What you will start to see is people will not make that switch. Some EV users have become frustrated with the network, and some of those people who invested early have gone to hybrid or back to internal combustion. That’s a retrograde step in what we’re all trying to do,” he said.
Hydrogen is also set to play a big role in forecourts: He added: “The future changes of the forecourt are remarkable. There are advances in technology and global policy is changing. Our vision would be larger footprints, lots of space for parking and charging, a mosaic of energies including liquid hydrocarbons, hydrogen and EV charging.
“The retail side will change too. There will be an expansion of services including dry cleaning, more off-licences and I believe pharmacies will play a big part. It will evolve and we know we have to transition, and we have to offer our customers what they want.”