Supermarket giant Lidl plans to reshape electric car charging, as it has the retail sector, after opening its first own-brand electric car charging station in France.
The site, near Lyon, offers 360kW charging at a competitive EUR0.40 (35p) per kWh. BMW- and Ford-backed Ionity charges EUR0.69 (60p) per kWh to charge at 350kW in France. The Lidl 'e-station' also offers 90kW and 180kW charging for EUR0.40 - or slower 22kW charging for EUR0.25 (22p) per kWh.
Each charging bay in Lidl's bank of 10 is sheltered and lit (in the roofing and at the charge point), helping to ensure a comfortable and safe environment regardless of external conditions. Solar panels are used to supplement the electric supply for the chargers.
That Lidl France has chosen to build and operate the charging station itself, rather than in collaboration with a third party, differs from the approach taken by most large businesses.
Indeed, Lidl GB's electric car chargers are operated by Pod Point, which also supplies those for rival supermarket Tesco. Here, Lidl's chargers operate at up to 50kW, at a cost of 40p per kWh.
But Lidl France has chosen to operate its own chargers to maintain its price positioning, technical director Matthieu Fréchon explained to French publication tesla-mag.com. He said the brand wants motorists to drive to its supermarkets to recharge at low cost. This is another difference in policy compared with Lidl GB because the UK division's chargers are intended for customer use only, with widely reported fines levied against those who do not shop at the store, or who stay too long.
Parent company the Schwarz Group employs a similar strategy at Lidl and Kaufland stores in Germany, offering 360kW charging (using the same ABB Terra 360 charge points) for EUR0.65 (56p) per kWh. Prior to September, these were free to use.
Should Lidl GB mirror its mainland European counterparts in establishing its own rapid charging points, it would become the first supermarket in the country to offer its own infrastructure - rather than one served by a partner company.
However, the firm has yet to confirm any plans addressing the rising need for fast charging infrastructure in the UK and it is unclear whether this would compromise its deal with Pod Point. Autocar has contacted Lidl GB for comment.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) recently identified infrastructural shortcomings as one factor behind reduced momentum for new battery-electric cars through October in the UK.
Chief executive Mike Hawes said: "Next year's outlook shows recovery is possible and EV growth looks set to continue but, to achieve our shared net zero goals, that growth must accelerate and consumers [be] given every reason to invest.
"This means giving them the economic stability and confidence to make the switch, safe in the knowledge they will be able to charge - and charge affordably - when needed. The models are there, with more still to come; so must the public charge points."