Just over 100 years ago, the UK’s first petrol station opened in Berkshire, much to the joy of many motorists at the time.
It was in Aldermaston, Berkshire, and was owned by the AA. Motorists liked the convenience of having fuel pumped into their cars so much that by 1923, just four years after that first station opened, there were 7000 pumps in operation.
Fast forward to today and that Aldermaston filling station is now just a lay-by. With the market transitioning to electric cars, are more filling stations likely to follow suit and disappear?
Platts Garage, in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, and barely 20 miles from Aldermaston, was one of the first garages to pump fuel, and they’re still doing so. Platts does it the old-fashioned way, too, by an attendant.
Customers drive onto the small forecourt to the side of the new car showroom (Platts is also a Ford dealer) and from a side door an assistant pops out to ask which fuel and how much of it they would like. Tank replenished, the customer pays from the comfort of their car seat before driving off. It should be popular, and indeed it is – or at least it was, until Marlow’s citizens began buying electric cars.
“I’ve noticed a decline in pump sales because of EVs,” says Tim Platt, managing director of Platts and grandson of the garage’s founder. “Demand for diesel fuel in particular fell overnight as customers who used to buy it for their Range Rovers and other SUVs changed them for Audi Q8 E-trons and suchlike.”
Despite this, Platt says he will continue to sell fuel. It’s not his only business (there’s the workshop as well as the showroom) and he doesn’t have the large overheads of a stand-alone filling station – but there’s another reason.
In his other role as a Ford salesman, Platt speaks to customers who own EVs, some of them Mustang Mach-Es that they bought from him. “Many of them say to me: ‘Don’t sell me another electric car. It’s great for commuting and for local journeys, but for long drives charging is too uncertain and takes too long. I’m going back to petrol.’”