Danish architecture studio COBE has designed a series of sustainable charging stations for electric vehicles for Scandinavia – the first one has cropped up along the E20 motorway in the Danish city of Fredericia. While the design provides EVs ultra fast charging speeds for batteries, powered by E.ON Drive and Clever, COBE also wanted to create a relaxing green space for drivers to recharge mentally and physically.
While a car takes five minutes to fill up with gas, one might argue that recharging in 15 minutes will be a bore. Yet, with the quickening pace of our society where everything is go-go-go, it’s all getting a bit exhausting – and COBE decided that the extra 10 minutes might provide a meaningful moment for us to stop and enjoy nature.
The station design is infused with trees, grasses and other plants, all selected in cooperation with the Danish Society for Nature Conservation to improve biodiversity. Travellers can find a shady spot to relax beneath the certified wood and concrete canopy structure topped with solar panels – or sit on a swing perhaps and just let the zen wash over you.
The geometric design is lightweight and organic in appearance, and easy on the eye too – unlike the heinous concrete gas stations slapped with neon signs and branding (although you cannot deny they have a certain allure when photographed by Ed Ruscha (opens in new tab)). And, the modular design means that multiple structures can be joined to create a ‘grove’ of stations if needed.
‘The energy and the technology are green, so we wanted the architecture, the materials and the concept to reflect that. So, we designed a charging station in sustainable materials placed in a clean, calm setting with trees and plantings that offer people a dose of mindfulness on the highway,’ says Dan Stubbergaard, architect and founder of COBE.
Let’s not forget that the ‘service station’ is a typology of architecture that has inspired the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edward Hopper and Alfred Hitchcock, who were creatively enthralled by these stop-overs, these non-places on the road, liminal zones found somewhere between A and B. So now there’s a new, more sustainable, opportunity for chance meetings and illicit affairs, as well as mindful retreats for a mental recharge.
Soon, we will be adjusting to saying ‘EV station’ instead of ‘petrol station’ when eventually electricity will replace fossil fuels in our vehicles hopefully in the not-too-distant future. This is the first of its kind, and soon there will be a whole network of 48 COBE-designed charging stations located across Scandinavian highways – tying together the main cities in Denmark, Norway and Sweden – and hopefully inspiring some great works of literature, art and film along the way.
For more information, visit the COBE website (opens in new tab)
Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.
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