EV charging firm Engenie hires McDonald’s global product director

James Wehner: Put drivers first, win.

Electric vehicle charging network Engenie has hired former McDonald’s global product director James Wehner as chief technology officer.

The company aims to tap Wehner’s customer experience expertise to make electric vehicle charging a frictionless exercise.

Electrons to go

While swapping fast food for rapid charging is not an obvious career move, Wehner thinks electric vehicles are approaching a tipping point – and that effort to solve charging challenges sooner rather than later will pay dividend.

At McDonald’s, Wehner led the development and rollout of self-serve kiosks, which quickly became a $3bn channel for the company, delivering higher value sales per order while bringing down queues and making things more efficient on both sides of the counter.

“McDonald’s was a fantastic opportunity. The work we did was on huge scales – incredible numbers,” said Wehner. “But there reaches a point in every job where you have achieved what you set out to do, which was deliver a significantly better experience for customers in restaurants.”

Mulling a new role – and purchasing his first electric car – Wehner was open to Engenie’s approach.

“Engenie wants to become a leader in its field by putting the driver at the forefront of what it does, literally driving the customer experience. I’ve spent the last 10 years focusing on that side of things. So it was an opportunity I couldn’t walk away from.”

Special sauce

Wehner says progress is built upon solving “simple challenges” for drivers one step at a time.

“If you don’t have off street parking, charging is pretty inconsistent. There are lots of glaring issues – people are putting them on social media the whole time. Engenie has resolved a lot of the issues – it has pay as you go functionality at the chargepoint already. But there are a lot of other opportunities to reduce friction points and make the overall experience better.”

Success is a world where interoperability issues are a thing of the past, “where everything just works”, according to Wehner.

To enable that world, commercial partnerships will be key.

Engenie is “working with competitor networks to allow our customers or drivers to charge on their networks and vice versa as seamlessly as possible. We are talking to car manufacturers about integrating with in car navigation and talking with others around map integration,” added Wehner.

The company is also working on commercial agreements with suppliers so that people’s EV charge can be added to their domestic energy bill.

Happy meals

Once transactional and interoperability issues are solved, networks and their partners can start competing more fully on service and personalisation via system intelligence, Wehner believes.

Providing smart route optimisation and offering incentives to drivers (charge and enjoy a special offer lunch at this pub, or earn a reward for using this chargepoint at the start of your shift instead of the end) will also assist with optimising demand across its network, ensuring better returns for investors and a quicker path to profitability.

Placing an order?

While Engenie is working on further relationships with food and leisure operators, Wehner said he couldn’t comment on McDonald’s UK EV rollout strategy.

“They have started mass deployments in a couple of European markets, and I know it is on the roadmap. But it is not a global initiative – it’s driven by local appetite to do so,” he said.

“But obviously if they want us to help we are happy to do so.”

Related stories:

Engenie lands £35m Cube investment, plans 2,000 rapid chargers

Engenie signs rapid charging deal with Cardiff Council

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