These are the forecourts of the future – grass and tree-lined electric vehicle charging hubs to be built across Greater Manchester next year.
The designs show a potential future hub on Oldham Road in the city centre, and an example of one you might see on the M60.
Be.EV, the firm behind the bold plan, have signed a contract with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).
They are also in talks with the 10 councils to install ‘green oasis’ ultra-rapid charging hubs on motorways and main arteries across the region.
The firm is also working with landlords, developers, private businesses and the public sector to install these hubs on their land.
The business already runs 140 charge points in Greater Manchester but plan to have installed 500 by the end of 2022, with a further 500 in the pipeline across the North West.
Some of these will be located at 10 ‘ultra-rapid’ charging hubs, said to have the capability to charge an electric car to 80pc in around five minutes.
The remaining chargers will be at smaller and slower ‘charge-while-you-park’ mini hubs, based at sites like shops, workplaces and leisure centres.
The forecourts offer new opportunities for architects; there are no concerns around petrol spillage so the ground doesn’t have to be sealed by concrete , while the absence of underground tanks means tree routes aren’t a hazard.
Air pollution, primarily caused by vehicles, is said to contribute to 1,200 deaths a year in Greater Manchester – and electric vehicles, as well as greater use of bikes, walking and public transport are seen as the remedy.
Electric vehicles (EVs) emit fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants than petrol or diesel cars, a calculation which takes into account the manufacturing process.
If the UK is to meet its 2050 target of ‘net zero’ – a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere – then by 2035, every single new vehicle sold should be electric, according to the Climate Change Committee.
Greater Manchester has a long way to go to compete with the likes of Amsterdam and Oslo, which are aiming for total zero emissions transport systems by 2025 and 2030 respectively.
Amsterdam has more than 17,000 electric car drivers among its population of 821,000, with more than 1,100 charging points. In Greater Manchester, meanwhile, there are estimated to be 5,000 electric vehicles among a population of 2.8m, with around 360 charging points.
However, the introduction of Clean Air Zones next year – which will see drivers of vans, buses, coaches, cabs and lorries charged for failing to meet emission standards – is predicted to push forward a sea change, despite criticism from green campaigners that they don’t go far enough.
Combined with the fuel crisis, growing pressure to move away from combustion engines, plus EV manufacturers working to make them more affordable, electric vehicle use is inevitably on the rise.
And Asif Ghafoor, CEO at Be.EV, whose firm already runs 140 charge-points across the conurbation, says Greater Manchester is actually ahead of the game when it comes to the UK.
“There’s a clear strategy here, and the mayor has made a commitment to the roll-out. He’s very supportive and the local authorities are very proactive in trying to push clean air and better transportation. There’s that discussion happening,” he told the Manchester Evening News.
The firm is also working with private workplaces, where tax incentives for individuals to buy electric, as well as new measures persuading firms to convert their company fleets, are leading to a growth in electric car use.
Mr Ghafoor, whose app-based charging firm already has more than 7,000 members signed up, says there is growth of around 900 members a month – proving a pressing need for more charge points.
He adds: “When humans moved from horses to motor vehicles we didn’t put petrol stations in barns and now we are moving from combustion engine vehicles to electric we need to be building a green sustainable environment.
“Every region in Greater Manchester wants to be greener. What we want to have is a charging station which isn’t another petrol forecourt of concrete and tarmac.”
Key to their plan, says Mr Ghafoor, is making these hubs accessible across the conurbation, where around 40pc of the population don’t have a driveway to charge their own car.
“We want to do this in a socially equal way. We aren’t saying ‘let’s stick everything in Hale Barns because that’s where people will have electric vehicles.
“We are trying to cover all of Greater Manchester. We are spending an equal amount of time in Rochdale and Bolton as we are in Stockport because we want an equal spread. IF people don’t have the charging infrastructure how are they going to drive an electric vehicle?”
Explaining the need for people to be able to charge their car while making short journeys across their home towns, he added: “We are thinking about the end user, we want to make it as simple as possible, so you are never five to 10 minutes away from a charger.”
He added: “We are really at the beginning of this but we starting to see that demand.”
There are three speeds of charge-point. Fast takes around six hours, a rapid charge, suitable for somewhere like a cinema, takes an hour, while the ultra-rapid can charge to 80pc in around five to 10 minutes.
A rapid charge costs 35p, a fast charge 25p, with the app-based firm offering members’ discounts. Non-members can tap and pay on an ad-hoc basis.
The designs for the futuristic green forecourts were created by Lipton Plant Architects.
Architect Edward Lipton said charging infrastructure would support a fast transition to electric and described as ‘exciting’ the opportunity to ‘re-imagine a common feature’.
He added: “With EVs, there is no risk of spilling petrol and diesel, so the ground doesn’t have to be completely sealed with concrete.
“There are no underground tanks to hold fuel that could get in the way of tree roots, so it’s easier to green the space. As a result, EV charging hubs can be greener, cleaner, more pleasant environments.”