EV Chargers as the Future of NYC

Using the principles of gamification for a leading EdTech company
4 months
Lead designer in team of 3

Discovery and Research
Wireframing and Prototyping

Mentored by Professor Adam Royalty (Stanford d.school/IDEO)
Figma, Photoshop

Project Overview

Our client, HEVO, wanted to convince New Yorkers and New York City that the future is electric and that HEVO's wireless EV chargers are the way to go for a cleaner and greener New York.

This was a broad and complex challenge, open to multiple solutions. First, we mapped out all the stakeholders to understand which user we should design solutions for. We settled on end users (EV owners and non-EV owners) and explored how HEVO's curbside chargers could add utility, even to non-users, and raise awareness about the value of electric vehicles.
Our Client

HEVO provides wired and wireless charging for electric vehicles. After perfecting their technology, HEVO is striving towards product adoption and is envisioning their product integrating with a greener and more accessible New York City. Specifically, HEVO wants to come in at the right point and meet New York City's momentum as the government expands its own efforts to increase charging across the city with several efforts like:
• The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) has set a goal of installing 10,000 curbside charge points in all five boroughs by 2030
• An additional DOT plan which requires 40 percent of all spaces in municipal parking lots to be equipped with at least level 2 chargers for electric vehicles by 2030
•The passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act which requires the entirety of New York state to have an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and 70 percent renewable energy by 2030. 

The Problem

We started with the primary question – 
"How might HEVO convince New York City and New Yorkers that having wireless electric vehicle charging stations throughout the city is of benefit to all?"

Some initial questions that percolated were:
Who are HEVO’s primary users?
What is the value add of wireless charging?
What other stakeholders are involved or affected by increased electric vehicle adoption and more charging infrastructure?
What are the current barriers to expanding?

The Solution

In exploring these, we came across ideas for electrifying NYC’s public transportation and integrating back end-supply chains with larger EV charging companies but finally settled on exploring and understanding the nuances of offering curbside charging to the residents in collaboration with the city government (Department of Transport in New York).

We designed and prototyped charging stations that added extra value to EV owners as well as non-EV owners, through the addition of work q stations, AR immersive art and also partnering with local businesses while the user waits for the car to charge.

Team Values
The depth and breadth of this challenge required us to have a unique approach. We came up with internal team approach to guide us during this project -
• Curiosity 
• Openness 
• Collaboration 
• Consolidate 
• Take risks 
• Accountability
Explore - Stakeholder Map
We started by consulting some secondary sources.
Charging AheadPublication of SAE J2954 universal standard for wireless chargingORNL and HEVO Extreme Fast Charging CollaborationDemo of Rezonant and JourneyVolvo Survey - The State of EVs in AmericaNYC Department of Transport Strategy for EVs
We then visited the HEVO office and talked with our client to further understand the existing technology, the problem and the clients needs.

After exploring the initial problem area and doing some secondary research, we realized that the adoption of wireless charging is contingent on a wide variety of stakeholders. The process of equitably designing the framework for HEVO’s expansion would include not only the government, but also other private players offering charging services, and electric vehicle owners as well as people and communities who didn’t own EV’s but would be impacted by the implementation of curbside charging and otherwise across New York City. To understand the context better we designed a stakeholder map that guided our discovery and design process.  This also helped us identify the various groups we might want to engage with to get diverse perspectives and build an understanding of the EV charging Ecosystem in New York City.
Explore - Interviews

Partnering with the New York City government would have challenges and complex processes of its own and we knew that from previous project experiences. We wanted to focus on understanding the other private partnerships the Department of Transport had initiated along with interviewing New Yorkers, experts, and end-users to gauge perspectives on electrifying transport in New York, and making it wireless.

A few lines of inquiry we identified were: 
What is the future of EVs?
What does the future of EVs in New York look like?
What is the relation between electrifying NYC Transport and our conception of New York as a green city?
What are the tradeoffs of a green city/or more EV’s?
What encouraged you to buy an electric vehicle?What are the best parts of owning an EV and what are the most frustrating?
What are the main drivers for emphasizing wireless charging for EVs?

Interview findings

Interviewees expressed a resounding support for renewable alternatives, and mostly all stated that they saw creating more green public transportation as one of the most important components of creating a more green and equitable city. Many interviewees also spoke of lack of public charging infrastructure and feeling anxiety around charging as a barrier of conversion to EV’s specifically in New York where real estate is scarce and people feel strongly about use of public spaces/parking spaces. Overall all interviewees saw EV owners as those belonging to higher socio-economic status. Experts within the space stated that there are increasingly more mandates for cleaner energy sources throughout the United States but there remains questions around implementation.
Recognizing these patterns, we identified three main themes:  
1) The influence of electric vehicles and charging on communities at large and non-electric vehicle users
2) The future of electric vehicles (the barriers to scaling up, and people's’ notions on wireless)
3) The experiences of electric vehicle owners and use cases for electric vehicle adoption

Journey map
The applications of Human Centered Design tools helped to guide our discovery of the underlying root feelings, needs, and challenges of important stakeholders. This journey map is focused on electric vehicle owners and certain inflection points in the process of planning a long haul trip.
Empathy Maps
Below are two empathy maps; Map 1 illuminated the feelings behind an interviewees decision to buy an electrical vehicle, expressing a commitment to self sufficiency. Map 2 highlights an analysts perspective on how implementation of electric public transportation in Colombia was carried out.

User Personas
After talking to all the stakeholders, we mapped out personas for each category of user to better understand their needs and wants so we could design multiple solutions.
We focused on who they were, what they felt and how they would be convinced EV's and therefore EV chargers are the future.

As we learned in the last section, our conversations pointed to focusing on electrifying public transport in New York City as well as improve the charging experience and infrastructure for end users. In conversations with our clients they shared that they already had plans to catalyze electrifying public transport. What they wanted us to focus on was enhancing learning around potential curbside charging in New York City as an entry into the market through which they would eventually expand to other models. This meant we would have to reassess our priorities and we starting with going back to drawing board and identifying core needs for HEVO’s Wireless Charging Service.

We went from chaos to more chaos...
We went back to our data, personas and the key themes that emerged from our interviews. We had our aha moment after a long walk in Riverside Park.
Solution Framing
Core ideas:
HEVO street furniture - Curbside Charging in NYC is something the DOT was interested in expanding anyways

Street Furniture in New York City should engage all people. This will help build brand awareness, add utility for non-EV owners, and bring people into HEVO’s larger vision.

Through street furniture:
• NYC finds out about HEVO
• NYC interacts with HEVO 

Prototype 1: HEVO work stations
The first prototype was the idea of HEVO charging stations as wifi-equipped work stations. This would add utility for everyone in New York as the wifi would be open access. After watching a 1 minute video and signing up to HEVO's mailing list, users will get access to fast, reliable wifi, wherever there is a HEVO charger. The stations will come equipped with a pull out desk, incase people need to take calls/meetings on the go, as well as be equipped with lights which automatically turn on after dark.

I first sketched the prototype before using Photoshop to show how the client how our proposed designs would look.
Prototype 2: Art and HEVO
The second prototype was inspired by the poetry boards in NYC's subways. I appreciated how a tiny poem would make the journey better. NYC in general has always found ways to integrate art usefully. I thought of how HEVO chargers generate awareness about the environment and the benefit of an electric future through art. Each charger would come with a QR code which, when scanned, would generate augmented reality art installations around the city which people could interact with. This would be great publicity for HEVO as it could partner with local artists while also generating brand and environmental awareness.
Client Feedback
We largely received positive feedback on the idea of HEVO charging stations having a greater utility for the public.
While the client liked the workstation idea, it was not financially feasible to pay for more material to make and attach a pull out table to charging stations. So we agreed on a wifi-enabled charging station with the option to charge phones as well.
Our client loved the idea of art and QR codes on charging stations and encouraged us to further explore avenues for partnerships with local artists or businesses.

Based on the feedback from both users and experts we merged the various various models for design upgrades with persona archetypes to create storyboards to support HEVO’s vision for reaching a wider audience and their objective of partnering with local businesses and the NYC government to improve EV charging infrastructure in the city.
The storyboards below show 2 prototypes and users:
1) Story 1 follows Sharon, a commuter from New Jersey who cares about the climate and doesn't like waiting for her car to charge. HEVO's partnership with local coffee shops makes the wait more pleasant for Sharon - she gets a nice coffee for a discount while the local business gets more traffic from HEVO users.
2) Story 2 follows Karim, a sustainability student who uses HEVO's wifi and interacts with the AR art around the city. He is a fan of HEVO and recommends it to his uncle, who is considering getting a new car.

The biggest breakthrough in this project was breaking down stakeholders and understanding what what HEVO was adding to each one of them. Through the process, we tried to map the different archetypes that could inform future communication strategies and mainly focused on exploring the value-add to the Department of Transportation and non-EV users through our prototypes. 

The findings of this research conclude in ideas for the storyboards but the learnings are open to interpretation and we hope HEVO is able to integrate our insights in the future. The idea that the same same functionalities of HEVO’s hardware could be modified to serve different purposes is very powerful and can be adapted to many concepts. 

Based on the interviews and research done by the team at Columbia, we can conclude that increasing access to curbside charging for EV’s in New York City is absolutely essential and we hope HEVO can be a part of that solution in the future.