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Will McDonalds InstaVolt charge point partnership drive-thru EV attitudes shift?

Jason Hooper, SVP general manager, Somo

McDonalds UK has announced far-reaching plans to install rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging points at drive-thru restaurants around the country.

Partnering with InstaVolt, the fast-food giant will be introducing charging infrastructure “as standard” in all new drive-thrus, with chief executive Paul Pomroy describing the move as a “central part of the UK’s efforts to build back greener post COVID-19".

"This partnership and ambition takes advantage of our scale, and is a real step forward for those already driving electric vehicles, as well as people considering making the switch," he said.

The rapid charging technology promises to compliment the fast food service, with McDonalds stating the InstaVolt charges would be able to provide an 80% charge in less than 20 minutes.

This news comes at a time where the automotive industry is in flux. The health crisis has hit UK car sales hard, with new car registrations in May dropping 89% compared to the previous year. However, last month also saw EV registrations grow by 21.5%. Before the pandemic hit, electric vehicle sales were in the midst of a sharp rise, growing 144% YoY.

But large-scale electric vehicle adoption is still within reach as a range of conditions converge to further encourage mass-market take-up.

A refreshed focus on environmental impacts of travel, paired with major emissions clampdowns and new initiatives from the likes of McDonald’s and InstaVolt to address the need for charging facilities, could mean that many more of us are realising the full potential of electric cars.

Research carried out by Somo found that awareness of the associated benefits of buying electric cars is encouragingly high among the majority of UK drivers.

But adoption isn’t without its barriers; the main one being price. But of the other concerns those in the industry do have great control over - range and recharging, limited knowledge and understanding, and product choice - there is opportunity for digital innovators to help stimulate the market, with targeted tools and app-based services that can help target consumer pain points and convert latent interest into proactive purchasing decisions.

For example, 38% of British drivers in our survey said finding charging points was a barrier to adopting an electric vehicle. So could this McDonalds partnership resolve this pain point and be a key step in the road to comprehensive electric vehicle infrastructure?

Consumers view electric charging points much in the same way they view diesel or petrol - as a homogenous product. In other words, there will be little opportunity for electric vehicle charging brands to differentiate themselves in this market outside of the two most essential factors: speed and price.

Therefore, it will be essential for these brands to differentiate by providing market-leading ease of use and convenience for consumers - alongside adding stand-out experiences that drive loyalty and recall among customers.

This McDonalds and InstaVolt partnership does exactly that.

Pull up, charge, order food (potentially through the Instavolt App), sync to free Wi-Fi perhaps, and make the best use of time while waiting for the charging to complete.

Both brands stand to enjoy a mutually beneficial rub-effect through providing this service.

However, there is also a clear counter-argument against this partnership in terms of how McDonalds and InstaVolt fit together as brands.

McDonalds is a value and convenience brand with a poor reputation of operating in an unsustainable, non-environmentally friendly way.

This is a stark contrast to the typical profile of a current electric vehicle owner - who, as an early adopter, tends to be a higher-income individual with keen awareness and concern about the environment. Would a Tesla owner want to charge up at a McDonalds?

You could also argue that McDonalds are taking a longer-term view of this partnership; being able to increase traffic to their stores by capitalising on the rate of electric vehicle adoption.

The ongoing digital transformation of our lives and the move to a cleaner, more sustainable society go hand in hand.

Whether or not this McDonalds partnership does drive-thru genuine change it is a signifier of major brands waking up to the role they can play - or the position they can leverage - in the electric vehicle revolution.

Author: Jason Hooper, SVP general manager, Somo

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