Sainsbury's electric vehicle charging

Source: Sainsbury’s

The rollout will see more than 750 new charge points installed across 100 Sainsbury’s stores by the end of 2024

Sainsbury’s has launched a new dedicated ultra-rapid electric vehicle charging business.

The new venture, which is called Smart Charge, will be fully owned and operated by Sainsbury’s. It will see the installation of more than 750 ultra-rapid charge points across 100 Sainsbury’s stores by the end of 2024.

Kempower, which manufactures the charging tech, has already installed charge points at 20 Sainsbury’s stores. The 150kW charge bays enable drivers to fully charge their vehicle within 30 minutes, and should provide enough power to travel up to 200 miles depending on the vehicle.

Over the last few years, major supermarkets have been increasing the number of EV charge points across their car parks and distribution centres. Tesco currently has the largest dedicated network through its partnership with Volkswagen and Pod Point, across 600 stores. However, Sainsbury’s is the first to launch a dedicated business unit focused on ultra-rapid EV charging infrastructure.

The Grocer understands that Sainsbury’s will roll its existing network of slower charging points, some of which are free to use, under the Smart Charge label. It will charge drivers to use the new ultra-fast charge points. 

In September, PM Rishi Sunak pushed back the implementation of a UK-wide ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel cars to 2035, from the original date of 2030. There remain widespread concerns the UK does not have the charge point infrastructure needed to support a wider uptake of electric vehicle use.

According to research by Censuswide, commissioned by Sainsbury’s, 80% of EV drivers avoid long journeys due to anxiety over the range and not wanting to charge at ‘public’ charging stations. Some 36% of those felt there are not enough charging bays in the UK, Sainsbury’s said.

Sainsbury's Smart Charge Logo

Smart Charge will be fully owned by Sainsbury’s

Smart Charge had been designed to “mitigate” these frustrations, as well as to boost Sainsbury’s net zero commitments, the supermarket said.

“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,” said Patrick Dunne, Sainsbury’s director of property, procurement & EV ventures.

“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 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.”

Sainsbury’s now a ‘top five’ UK charge provider

Anthony Browne, minister for technology and decarbonisation, welcomed the launch: “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 EV drivers.

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

When the network reaches its full 100-store rollout, it would make Sainsbury’s a “top five EV charging player in the UK”, said Clive Black of Shore Capital. 

“No doubt Sainsbury’s cafés, which now include Starbucks units, will be looking forward to seizing any opportunity that may arise from charging EV drivers should folks not wish to shop whilst charging.”

The news follows Sainsbury’s third quarter results and Christmas sales update on 10 January. Grocery sales grew 9.3% during the 16 weeks to 6 January, with Christmas food sales up 8.6%, which CEO Simon Roberts said was testament to the continued success of the supermarket’s ‘food first’ strategy over the last three years.

However, its earnings from other parts of its business, including clothing and general merchandise at Argos, fell.

Roberts is set to unveil a new strategy update on 7 February.