The move to electric vehicles (EV) represents the biggest transformation in the way people travel in over 100 years, with opportunities for more frequent stops, longer dwell times and high spend with F&B operators.

That was the thesis from Moto Hospitality CEO Ken McMeikan at MCA’s Food to Go Conference earlier this month.

He said the last time transport was overhauled in such a way, the horse and cart was making way for diesel and petrol motorcars.

“We’re living through something quite extraordinary,” he told delegates. “We’re going through a major transformation last seen before any of us were born – you would need to be over 100 when this last happened.”

With ‘experience’ a key recurring theme throughout the conference – via digital, in-store, self-order kiosks etc – McMeikan said this would only increase important with the advent of EV.

“The opportunity is huge,” he said. “EV divers will stop more. If you can have a 50% increase in the number of customers visiting your brand, I think you’d be pretty pleased. That’s 1.5 times more frequent then when driving diesel or unleaded.

“They also stay longer, for a third longer than they currently do, so there’s an opportunity to sell more to them. And average spend is higher.”

Moto operates 60 motorway service areas (MSA), with 335 F&B units and 55 fuel forecourts.

Increasingly it is building ultra-rapid charging hubs, and by the end of the year, all MSAs will have the facilities.

This is part of a £400m investment across the Moto estate.

In latest site Rugby, Moto has introduced 24 ultra-rapid charging hubs, which can give sufficient power for up to 100 miles within just 5-6 minutes of charging time, if the car is capable of taking on that much power.

McMeikan said Moto was “building for the future” by offering a higher kw/hr capacity than is largely necessary for many EVs currently on the roads.

In Exeter, Moto boasts 8 megawatt chargers – the equivalent to providing power to a quarter or third of the households in the city.

“There’s a phenomenal benefit because of the great this does for the environment and the planet,” he said.

“So far, by the end of 2022, we have taken 22,600 tons of CO2 out of the UK. You would need 400 10-year-old tress to absorb that much carbon. And that’s only going to grow as we continue to roll out more EV chargers.”

Since then, Moto has reached 1m charging events, with 30k tons of CO2 taken out of circulation.

By 2025, the company anticipates one in 10 people visiting a MSA will be in an EV.

McMeikan said this structural trend had clear benefits for Moto’s partners, which includes long-standing partnership with Burger King, Greggs and M&S and a more recent relationship with Pret and KFC.

Food and drink is the second more important reason people stop, after going to the toilet, while fuel is fourth.

“That’s only going to increase with EV, with a greater demand for charging,” he added.

McMeikan said with 860m vehicles passing by Moto sites, 55m chose to stop, meaning there was a “huge opportunity” for MSAs to capture the other 94% not turning in.