Electric car
charging

Making EV's more convenient and reliable for everyday use

THE PROMPT

Design an electric charging port of a self driving car

Electric cars have been around for while. But soon self driving electric cars would be commonplace. We might reach a day when people would say "long ago we used to drive cars". Coming back to the present, for this exercise I concentrated on 2 main aspects of the experience - 

How can we use a connected electric car to adapt to the daily needs of the user?
How can we increase the reliability of electric cars for short and sudden trips?


Duration - 10 hours

UX RESEARCH

What are our users trying to accomplish?

User Interviews

Interviewed 3 drivers to get some insights about their thoughts on Electric cars and self-driving cars. I also got a brief overview of their fuel usage patterns.

Navdeep, Uber Driver
"A full tank on my car gives me 400 miles. I do around 300 miles everyday."

Danielle, part time Uber drivier
"My tank gives me 200 miles. I usually fill once a week if I am not doing Uber. " 
 

Govind, intern at Acuity Brands
"I drive to work everyday. Usually fill up on Monday and Friday." 

Journey Map

To understand the different decisions a user has to make while planning to recharge a car during trips, created a journey map. It highlights the emotional and functional needs of the users at different points.

Target users

Having an understanding of who you are designing will help in making several design decisions down the lane. For this, I created a persona. However, this is not entirely backed by extensive user research. This is more of a guiding light.

What I learnt from research?

Users do not like the long wait times for charging electric vehicles.
How might we reduce the wait times so that EV’s do not affect their daily schedules?

Users are stressed about planning sudden or long trips with EV's.
How might we build trust and increase convenience of using electric cars?

Users like charging stations which have facilities for their other errands.
How might be find compatible charging stations that help also help them run other errands?

Introducing the new idea 

We might be able to reduce wait times and make the system more reliable if we have more information about the contextual needs of the user. With connected services, we might be able to use some of the existing services to understand user needs. Here are a few examples.

Google assistant scenario

Here's a sample scenario where Google Assistant helps the user plan a trip on the self driving electric vehicles using a conversational medium. This is one example of meeting the user where they are and contextually assessing their needs. 

 

Making informed decisions

Once we know the user needs, we can suggest the most efficient workflow for the trip. The user does not need to make all the complex decisions of choosing a station and planning other errands around this task. 

How it works

User scenario

Novak had planned to go to Jen's party. She gets into the car and the car powers on. This is the userflow she is going to experience inside the car.

Battery Health

The user can assess the health of the car battery to check if everything is alright. The car can automatically inform the user if something goes wrong but these stats are made visible so that the user can build trust with the car.

User scenario

Novak had planned to go to Jen's party. She gets into the car and the car powers on. This is the userflow she is going to experience inside the car.

User chooses one of the payment options.

We use videos to provide instructions for first time users.

Once the NFC connection is successful we display instructions for the hose.

When the hose is connected, estimated time and charge are displayed. User can review details and start charging.

Once the user starts charge, we provide details about other errands that can be done.

This is an alternate color scheme for the design. This might not be suitable for bright light conditions.

Design process

Once I have my research insights, I start off by brainstorming ideas and drawing out quick sketches of them. One of the methods I use is dividing the page into 9 blocks and coming up with 1 idea per block in 5 minutes.

Other big ideas that emerged - What if?

The idea I expanded upon was developing efficient workflows for users using connected services and devices. This makes planning a trip easy. But I explored several other areas to make charging stations more readily available. Here are some of those ideas.

Auto charge
In the current system, the user will need to get down from the car and connect the hose to charge the car. What if there was technology where the hose could automatically connect once the car was auto-parked? What if there was some kind of induction charging where no hose is needed? This way, the user can continue working or taking rest in the car.

Airbnb for Charge
Right now the charging stations are limited. Companies like Tesla are working on setting up more stations at strategic points. But what if we could crowdsource these charging stations? What if people could open their homes for charging? This would increase the charging station count exponentially.

Uber for Charging
The worst nightmare for a person with an electric car is the car running out of charge midway. Instead of rushing to the station or towing your car, what if you could tap a button and a self driving which has the capability to charge would arrive?

App experience

I start off sketching out big ideas once again for the product experience. For example, I sketching out different ideas for creating the in car experience.

Design guidelines

  • Make sure all content is visible from a 3-feet distance 
  • Make sure all the tap targets are large enough to accomodate large error probability
  • Make sure there are clear instructions at the charging stations
  • Try to avoid text entry in your interfaces

 

Exploring UI Patterns

I use quick wireframes to explore UI patterns. All the information architecture decisions are taken at this stage. The UI patterns also effect the mechanics of the whole experience.

 

Wireframes for in car experience

Wireframes for charging station experience

Visual explorations

Once the information architecture and user flows are finalized in the wireframe stage, I start working on the visual design. This includes type, color, illustrations, data visualization.

 

Charging station light UI

Charging station payment options

In car accent color green

Quick overview of car status

Next steps

I would like to create some interactive prototypes to test out these initial concepts. The feedback from these prototypes can be used to generate more ideas.

I would also like to spend some more time to research about self driving cars and how we need to design for trust. 

I would like to explore the concept of smaller and replaceable batteries which would reduce the wait time at charging stations.