Maxol Group warns on grid capacity as it reveals EV charging plan

Battery storage will be needed on sites to meet power demand, says chief executive

Maxol chief executive Brian Donaldson called for ‘real collaboration’ on power generation between the Government and industry stakeholders

Maxol chief executive Brian Donaldson called for ‘real collaboration’ on power generation between the Government and industry stakeholders

 

Maxol Group plans to use battery storage on forecourts where it offers charging facilities to drivers of electric cars in part because it does not have confidence in the capacity of the electricity transmission grid to meet demand.

“Genuinely, we have a big concern that until there is additional power generation capacity put in, it is going to be a challenge to meet the increased demand from electric vehicles,” said chief executive Brian Donaldson.

Mr Donaldson called for “real collaboration” between the Government and industry stakeholders and said it had already started talks with NIE Networks in the North and ESB.

“We need power at the right access points. There is no point having power in the wrong locations.”

Installing three 150kW vehicle chargers – the equivalent to what 12 households would use – to its forecourts would require “significant investment” on the part of the group, which would involve the addition of battery storage because Maxol is “not convinced that there will be sufficient capacity at all times to meet demand”.

Battery storage will also speed up charging and make the service more “resilient” and cost-effective, he said. “It gives you confidence that if there is a problem with capacity in the grid, you can still serve your customers.”

As part of its €20 million investment programme for 2022, it wants to add electric vehicle (EV) charging hubs, with at least three chargers, to its sites in Ballycoolin in Dublin, Mitchelstown in Co Cork and Castletroy in Limerick, as well as four sites in the North. This is predicated on power being accessible at these locations.

The group has already identified an equipment provider and is trialling a payment platform in the North.

Both access to the grid and the energy capacity of the grid are set to be significant challenges for the 101-year-old company as it seeks to transition to EV charging in line with the market over the coming years.

Mr Donaldson said he believed the transition would happen, but anxiety about charging facilities remained the “big negative” for drivers.

The latest accounts for the Maxol Group show a profit before exceptional items of €17.1 million for 2020, down 7.5 per cent of 2019 in light of the Covid-19 impact on trading conditions. Turnover fell 23 per cent.

Positive outlook

The outlook for 2021 is positive, Mr Donaldson said, with this year set to outperform 2020 despite the “bleakest and most challenging” start.

The working-from-home phenomenon and a rise in domestic tourism have both benefited its 242-strong network of forecourts, most of which are in neighbourhood locations. Coffee and car washes have both done well during the pandemic, with coffee sales expected to hit €9 million in 2021 and more than 600,000 vehicles expected to pass through a Maxol car wash this year.

With the group, which employs more than 80 people directly, working to shift its core offering away from fuel, it has refurbished key sites and introduced drive-through Burger Kings at some of them. Apache Pizza outlets are expected to launch soon, starting at its forecourt in Donabate, Co Dublin.

Mr Donaldson urged the Government to lift the 100sq m cap on the size of forecourt retail areas in the retail planning guidelines.