McDonald's Deploys Plug-in Car Charging Station

The McDonald’s restaurant in Cary, NC, will become the first location in the fast food restaurant chain in more than a decade to offer electric car recharging. The deployment of a ChargePoint charging station for plug-in vehicles is part of the Cary restaurant’s efforts to go green. Ric Richards, the independent owner of the McDonald’s, is building the new restaurant with eco-friendly materials and technologies.

McDonald's marquee with electric car charging message

For decades, critics have criticized McDonald’s for questionable enviromental practices. Now, the McDonald’s in Cary, NC installed a charging station for low- or zero-emission plug-in cars.

“Our customers will have a dedicated place to park and recharge their vehicles,” said Richards. “McDonald’s is enabling a better environment for future generations by supporting zero-emissions transportation infrastructure.” The new “green” McDonald’s in Cary will open on July 14.

A McDonald’s location in Phoenix, Ariz., installed a charging station in the late 1990s to accommodate a previous wave of electric cars. There are also plans to install plug-in car charging stations at McDonald’s locations in Sweden.

Widespread adoption of plug-in cars will partly depend on the establishment of convenient recharging locations where drivers live and work. ChargePoint and other providers are installing its first charging stations to anticipate the introduction of electric cars and plug-in hybrids—not expected in significant numbers until 2011 or later. Analysts forecast that as many as 1 million charging stations will be installed throughout the United States by 2015. ChargePoint is a private fee-based network of charging stations, providing grid access and related services for owners of plug-in cars.

After decades of criticism for its questionable environmental practices—including destruction of the rainforest to make way for cattle ranching and production of millions of tons of unnecessary packaging—McDonald’s has recently improved its policies regarding energy and waste. The charging station parking spot at the Cary McDonald’s could be empty for a number of years—until plug-in cars are introduced and sold in North Carolina. At this stage, the usefulness of charging a car for 30 minutes or so—the length of a fast food meal—remains uncertain.

U-Turn at the Drive-Through Lane

In 2006, McDonald’s came under fire for giving away 42 million toy Hummers with Happy Meals. Critics said that Hummers were the worst example of the lack of commitment to cleaner and more efficient vehicles by General Motors and other American automakers—and should not be promoted to children. At the time, Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, said, “McDonald’s has helped make American kids the fattest in the world, so now they’re looking for new ways to promote an unhealthy lifestyle.” He added, “They’re selling future car buyers on the fun of driving a vehicle that emits 39 times more smog-forming chemicals than the cleanest cars on the road.”

The installation of the first plug-in car charging station at a McDonald’s is an example of the rapid dramatic shift in public sentiment about cars, energy and the environment—or at least public relations efforts catering to green-oriented consumers—and is seen as a sign of the potential widespread adoption of cars that can be powered by electricity.


  • Prius Owner in Baltimore

    ……………. can I get a few napkins with that order? Oh, and throw in a few kilo-watts with that while you’re at it. LOL

  • Scott M.

    McDonald’s came under fire for giving away 42 million toy Hummers with Happy Meals.

    They’re TOYS.

    If they were giving away a dozen real hummers with their Monopoly game, they’d have a point.

    But these are toys.

  • Dean

    I wonder how Micky D’s missed the one in Phoenix? I guess it wouldn’t have been as big news if it was the second…

  • thevgtech

    Yes they’re toys. What better way to indoctrinate the children. You know, like having a clown represent your hamburger business. And it works! I was at a daycare recently and overheard 3rd or 4th grade students talk about what car they would like (their parents) to buy. Hummer was high on the list. It is sad.

  • Dom

    Are you saying I have to PARK to use it?? Why can’t it recharge my car while I sit in the drive-thru?? And can I supersize my charge along with the rest of my order??

    Sarcasim aside I would actually park if I went to McDonalds… but I try to avoid the place. I’d be more interested if they started selling biodiesel made from their waste oil so I could fill up my TDI.

  • Dean

    Interesting that a “fast food” place would offer battery charging. Generally speaking battery charging is not a fast thing, so the amount you could actually charge your car during a fast meal would not be very useful. You might get a couple miles out of it. It’s more important that businesses offer it, so people can plug in all day while they are working and charge up for their commute home.

  • Eric

    Dean,

    While it is true you aren’t getting a big charge in that 1/2 hour, it could come in very handy if you are running low on charge and need that extra to be sure you get home. Having charging stations in numerous places will be important to make people feel comfortable with driving all electric vehicles without worrying about getting stranded. So yes the work commute chargers are important but don’t underestimate the value of that half hour charge. When people see those popping up everywhere, that will get them thinking more and more about going electric.

  • GOK

    If you gave the kids a choice between a monster truck, pink corvette convertable and a gas sipping prius. No child would pick the prius because they are kids and they don’t buy gas. You sound like PETA when you start complaining about toy Hummers in happy meals.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    I agree with both Scott M. and Eric. Toys are toys. Toys are for kids. If one grows up to be an adult, they make decisions from much different information. Many kids think money is free and endless – until they grow up and learn that it is not free and endless. Adults make decisions based on the fact that many things are not free and endless. And any electric charge will probably be worth the cost if it means one will get home. And the more competition, the more plentiful the charging sites and the cheaper the charging price. For example, one is low on electric charge, marginal at making it home, hungry, and enough budgeted discretionary money. Bob’s dinner has a charging port while the McDonald’s across the street has yet to be upgraded to electric charging. Which does one chose? Sounds like a no brainer to me. All we need now are the plug-ins and charging ports.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Unfortunately, this looks like it is only a 120v charger. This is pretty slow. In an hour of charging, it will probably only give you about 5 miles of extra range.
    For true value, one needs between 208 volts/24 amps to 240 volts/70 amps to charge in any reasonable time. At that, one can go between 20 and 50 miles on an hour of charging.
    Since there are so few cars on the road that can actually take advantage of this electric car charging station, I’d chalk this up as a well-intentioned yet limited-benefit endeavor today.
    The 240V/70A public charger near the In-n-Out in Woodland, CA is more useful (http://www.evchargernews.com/regions/95776_1.htm). Tesla Roadsters and RAV4EVs charge there regularly. It enables the Tesla Roadsters to travel from the SF Bay area to the Tahoe/Reno area easily with a relaxing hour or 2 charging break.
    As practical electric vehicles roll out onto the road over the next few years, practical public charging sites will likely also roll out as well.

  • kunk

    First of all, thanks to Mcdees for even doing a newsworthy thing that promotes questions and discussion. Secondly, as usual, you silly Earthlings are missing the point entirely. A low coefficient of drag, smaller frontal area design would be an advantage for high speed, longer distance trips. There is no reason we all need to drive the same ultra light, super thin, three wheel (not marketable) nerd car. The fastest return on our eco investment would be to acknowledge the horrendous burden of large format, heavy, SUVs, trucks and sedans already out there on the road and on lots. We need to “stimulate” our government (?) to get off it’s fat, over indulged ass and mandate (and rebate) the retrofit of all existing large format vehicles to drive line coupled hybrid operation. For the under educated (all of us) this would consist of the following: 1– drop a series wound DC motor into the driveline (with a splined shaft on one end that goes into the transmission and a CV (U) joint on the other end attaches to the drive shaft.) Shorten the drive shaft and assemble 2– integrate the motor controller with the vehicle computer to provide both power assist and regenerative braking to overcome “urban” inertial loads. 3– provide both battery storage for constant loads backed up with a bank of “super caps” (multi farad capacitors capable of very high energy exchange rates) as an “electronic flywheel” for inertial loads in combination with regenerative braking. If this seems like a science fiction solution….It’s not. These systems have been in production for several years and are reasonably effective. They are currently in use by both consumers and several major carriers like UPS and FedEx for local delivery services. At this time they cost several thousand dollars and about 1 day to install. The price will come way down as more are used, especially if supported by a federally funded rebate program…..kunk

  • qqRockyBeans

    Yeah, but will it be on the dollar menu?1

  • Dan K.

    I love that website you have. I’m using it here at my summer internship at Friends of the Earth SF for a solar charging stations project/campaign. See here:

    http://www.foe.org/transportation/powering-plug-ins

    Cheers,
    Dan

  • Paul M.

    Even better idea: McDonald’s should offer the “regular” EV-recharge option or a energy-producing “treadmill” recharge while encouraging all super-sizers to choose “treadmill.” (LOL)

  • Brad

    This McDonald’s is being built down the road from me. It would be cool if they offered a WVO dispenser for those of us who burn that in our cars.

  • Toots McGillicutty

    I heard that they are replacing Ronald McDonald with Charlie McCharger. EV has gone from meaning Extra Value to Electric Vehicle at McD’s.

  • Max Reid

    I hope Walmart, Target, K-Mart will also join in.

    Top-2 companies in the World are Shell and Exxon,
    Walmart pushed to 3rd, again 4th & 5th are BP & Chevron.

    These companies can make some money by selling electricity to automobiles.

  • Scott M.

    Of course in very cold climates there are parking lots all around which have plugs for every stall — for block heaters though. Block heaters can sap a lot of power of course, but are those lot owners willing to have cars charged at their lot?

  • anymous

    hahahaha thats funny but who says lol anymore

  • anymous

    heyy this is a funny website i never knew you could comment on maccas. but still i like the idea??

  • anymous

    whats walmart i live in las vegas and i have never seen a walmart

  • ACAGal

    Regarding Target and other places + charge stations:

    The last go around with EVs, Costco put in charge stations at some California stores.

    I asked, they still work, and they are free (when I asked). If one were to get a full charge, the cost would be about a $1, so it isn’t costing the store much electricity to provide this service. One of the local malls and a gas station I drive by, have charge stations. There are EVs still in use out here, most are owned by businesses,but some stubborn folks kept their Toyota REVs. Sometimes these slots are in use..

  • Nomushroomshere

    Comon people! MARKETING PLOY…. where have you been since santa clause was holding a bottle of coke…
    wakey wakey…

  • memory foam mattress

    As some have mentioned McDonald is likely not the ideal business for charging locations at this time for several reasons, especially the short duration nature of the usual McD’s visit. However their properties are everywhere and to get things started in the early phases, this will help a great deal.

    It is likely that electric car use will never fully take off until the day that charging times are greatly reduced, so when these times are greatly reduced, as they eventually will be, the concept of charging at a fast food place would be fine. It’s good that businesses like McD’s are seeing this as an opportunity.

  • LarryF

    Uhhh…how many people who own a plug-in car eat at CrapDonald’s? WTF? If you’re environmentally conscious enough to make that kind of a decision, you’re also likely EC enough to not eat there. The amount of waste generated by fast food restaurants is appalling. Just want to make sure the irony isn’t lost on anyone…

  • Uncle B

    Soon, plug-in car folks will live in “Eco-Ark” housing in order to survive the next, inevitable, cyclical, economical down-turn, and never need to stop at Mickey ‘D’s anyway – too costly! They will eat mostly veggies from home gardens, some home raised chicken, and fish and greens from Aquaponics at home, work fewer longer shifts, have free factory dorms to cut transportation costs, and a lot more time off for Music, Art Drunkenness, and Sex, as G d intended for man!, and give less and less to the corporate-world shysters and shylocks! Life will be especially sweet with Obama’s health care in place! The Corporate Gods will have one less whip to enslave us with!

  • Debt Settlement Program

    punctilious post. due one unimportant where I contest with it. I am emailing you in detail.

  • Ecocar competitor

    Kunk,
    While in theory yes all of those technologies are available, do have any idea the effort that would be involved in retrofitting all of the vehicles on the road today. Even if you leave out all things cars and just stick to heavy trucks you’re still talking about roughly 2 and a half million. Now factor in the fact that every make and model will be unique and must have their axle retrofitted in a different way. Now you also have to account for space to add the battery packs. On vehicles that large you’d need a monstrous battery pack and a huge electric motor. That adds more weight to already heavy vehicles so they now will have to have new shocks and dampers put on to compensate for this. Already just from these two and a half million trucks you’re talking about a massive amount of work not to mention how much this will cost. You’ll never recoup you costs through fuel savings on retrofits like that. And since that whole industry is based on maximum profit and minimum cost, it would never happen. Same thing goes for SUV’s and Dualies. There are over 100 million of those. Again unique retrofitting for each make and model, unique battery placement, and all new shocks and dampers. Say for arguments sake you could pull this off for on average 20,000 dollars a car. No one I know has $20,000 to completely change their car. It’s just not gonna happen

    btw $20,000 would be a miracle. it’d prolly average more around $50,000 oh and not mention that the computer code to control all this in the car would have to be tailored to each car too.

  • Bert Morris

    …and Joe Camel was just a cigarette-smoking cartoon character.

  • Anonymous

    I really have a question to ask: Of those 42 million toy Hummers, which of those toys were given away WITHOUT THE PARENT’S PERMISSION???? Of those 42 million toy Hummers, there’s usually about 42 million other optional toys as well, at any given time. The customers had the option of not buying their children such “irresponsible” toys. It’s really funny that this is complained about. Many of these nay-sayers either drive a gas-consuming vehicle or got a toy car or truck at one time or another in their youth.

    -McD’s crew

  • KarenG

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  • Davet

    It is the other way around: As charging stations become available, electric cars will become practical, and popular – then; even more popular when the majority of people discover that they really accelerate waaaaayyyy faster than gas driven cars (most Prius owners have already discovered this about electric motors – Prius cars usually go slow because most people buy them to save gas, but when you need to go – they move – fast). We have a Prius because it runs on gas mainly and we can easily refuel in about 2 or 3 minutes because there are gas stations all over the place. I resist buying an all electric car because long trips are impossible – its too easy to get stranded. Imagine charging stations running on solar power, or even replaceable battery packs. Don’t say it can’t be done – or it won’t. As charging stations or battery packs become accessible, then electric cars will take off like no one ever imagined – in more ways than one.

  • Davet

    Hey, don’t believe me. Check out the stuff below. Electric cars are cool, fast and clean. read this:
    http://gas2.org/2009/03/25/worlds-fastest-electric-car-is-a-1972-datsun/
    and here:
    http://www.evalbum.com/35
    and here look at the videos:
    http://www.plasmaboyracing.com/

  • tapra1

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