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TIMO

Bringing EV charging to you

MA 2020/2022
Keywords
Electric Vehicle, Behavioural Change, Transition, Community
Overview

TIMO, a human-centred data platform, connects drivers and communities across a dynamic network of 25,000 local UK chargers. We are shaping a smooth transition to EV and a zero-carbon future worldwide.

Collaboration

TIMO was created in partnership with PA Consulting, the UK’s pre-eminent technology and innovation consultant with a strong heritage of design excellence. Following the HM Department for Transport’s launch of the iconic new British charge point for electric vehicles designed by RCA and PA Consulting, we worked closely with their team. We carried out three months of design research to discover new insights that ultimately supported PA Consulting in its mission to empower zero-carbon transition within the UK by 2030.

Discover

The Road to Zero Carbon

The UK is moving to a ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars in 2030. Facing this transition to a zero-carbon future, the new generation of electric vehicles (EVs) must meet the challenge of how to design and better adapt energy transfer to electric cars for the 8m-plus households that do not have access to a driveway in which to install their own device.

Royal College of Art and PA Consulting, for HM Department for Transport, designed an iconic charge point to launch new state-of-the-art charging infrastructure for the UK.

With a new charge point, how can TIMO design a new vision for charging to help the current and next generation of EV users to step confidently into the zero-carbon era?

Our design team framed the service design with three initial strategic design principles for urban living:

  1. Make the service inclusive for non-drivers in the city
  2. Integrate the charging service into the ecosystem of the city
  3. Don’t promote the use of more cars

We conducted initial street interviews with 39 people from diverse backgrounds across different environments – from shopping centres, parks and street charging points, to see what they were thinking about EV chargers. We then did 1-on-1 interviews with 10 current and potential drivers to understand their daily routines – the why, when, where and how they drive, and the role of driving in their way of life. Lastly, we also interviewed three design experts about urban ecosystems and design.

define

Key insights

After extensive primary research, we mapped our findings to discover the following insights.


Time is the biggest barrier to new EV adoption

For current petrol and non-EV drivers, concerns about charging time stop most of them from switching to electric vehicles, particularly when compared with petrol or diesel refuelling. On top of an average 2-4 hours charging time, EV drivers currently need to plan and find a functioning charge point first and then wait in a queue if it is occupied. This process feels significantly harder to cope with than a good-old petrol refuelling experience.


Waiting time is annoying; charging time is not

When we look at what the current generation of EV drivers were telling us in interviews, surveys and conversations, the majority of them had a home charger and so charging time spent would usually be easily solved by plugging in the car at night. However, for our target group – those without driveways or off-street parking - depending on on-street public charge points was unreliable and inconvenient.

But is time really the problem for EV users, as non-EV drivers suspect? Surprisingly, we found out that they considered charging time as a chance for 'me time' and generally enjoyed it. The real issue for them being that it was hard to find a reliable charger. Problems related to a charge point being 'ICEd' or 'ICEing', charging bays being occupied by non-EV cars, were frequently mentioned. This results in more time in their day wasted as the drivers need to wait or find another charging spot with no promise of success.


Non-Drivers have negative assumptions about Electric Vehicles & chargepoints

In cities like London, most people don't drive to work or drive often at all. Instead, they walk, cycle, use public transport or even work from home. In our research, we discovered how non-drivers do not really care about cars, and some even have negative assumptions about EVs and charge point infrastructure. A potential reason why misconceptions occur between drivers and non-drivers became clear from the separation between the two groups: there are no ways for pedestrians to interact with the EV driver community or the charge points themselves. So it results in a lack of awareness and a lot of misunderstanding.

How might we

make charging time spent more valuable for current and future EV drivers

so that

people can create meaningful time into their daily routines

through

building new experiences that enable living, sharing and mobility in the city?

develop

Design Proposition

How can we redesign current and future EV drivers' experience of time to adapt to different mobility behaviours that make up lives in the city?

We used three methodologies to modify the ‘time’ experience design:

  • Reduce the actual measured time
  • Change the perception of time
  • Increase the tolerance of time

Based on this, we generated our design directions:

  • To design a more efficient and seamless integrated service to reduce the actual time of charging, including the duration of finding the charger, charging the car and paying for the service
  • To change the time perception of the potential and new EV drivers, through 'occupying' otherwise 'unoccupied' time with experiences
  • Make the charging service more adaptive to the user's data and needs overtime, so that the drivers can have a sense of safety and trust


Stakeholder Value

Echoing the design principles, our goal is not only to improve the charging experience but to empower a smooth transition to sustainability for all. Besides our main target group – current and potential EV drivers, we include pedestrians in the ecosystem. Key stakeholders include local businesses, local authorities and mapping service providers.

Developing our time design framework and exploring the opportunities created by insights from research, we updated our three design strategies as follows:

  • Improve the experience of the core group (current EV drivers)
  • Foster engagement with non-EV drivers
  • Shape a dynamic and adaptive system with all


Ideation & Prototype

The strategy we defined helped us to ideate with clear and thoughtful direction. To test our ideas, we held two workshops with EV drivers and collected 285 responses from a survey of EV drivers. We also rented a hybrid Zip car to prototype one of our ideas in real life with members of the public, where we envisioned EV cars by the charge points as mobile micro-markets to empower sharing, learning and trading. However, the feedback we received showed safety and privacy hazards so we killed the idea. We integrated the positive feedback and merged them into our final design, TIMO. 

deliver

Introducing TIMO: shaping a smooth transition to EV and a zero-carbon future for all

TIMO is a human-centred data platform that connects drivers and communities across the dynamic network of EV charge points in the UK.


No extra app needed

TIMO is designed as an integration to existing map apps such as Google and Waze so we can integrate across all competing services as one source of truth. EV drivers link their car on the map app and answer a few questions about their plug type and charging range; then, they are ready to go. This way TIMO disperses a powerful and simple small intervention across an already existing mass user base. These are some most important parts for integrating EV into our future lifestyle.


Proactive notifications let chargers find the EVs

TIMO inverted the logic of a regular charge point service. Instead of waiting for drivers to find chargers, it allows chargers to find drivers proactively according to their estimated battery status. This eliminates the mental stress of planning for a charge from the user journey. The bigger advantages of this innovation include helping to disperse charger use across the grid, managing traffic and avoiding congestion.


Reliable and flexible bookings

TIMO can intelligently recommend, book and plan charge points to meet drivers’ requirements. For example, the driver can plan a route with an available charge point or find one with desired amenities nearby, all with a few simple clicks on the map app. Information about time planning will be clearly indicated.

The booking information will then be transferred to appear live on the actual charge point. This is to enable users that prefer less digital interactions can still access and use the charger. The different colours of light (Red: finished charging; Yellow: low battery/have booing in 1 hour; Green: available to use/charging now) tell the story of the availability of the charge point, making it easy to use as a walk-in service.

In case someone occupies a charger the driver has booked at the last minute, Timo will automatically find the next best available one and notify the user of the new booking. This is achieved through an additional camera on the charge point, using AI technology to recognise whether a car is parked in the charging spot.


Low carbon activities bring communities closer

As our mission is to embrace the transition to a zero-carbon lifestyle with everyone, we integrate recommendations of community-based activities into Timo. The event information will be obtained from platforms like Meetup or Eventbrite, with a filter that pushes eco-friendly ones forward.

We believe that these events will help build long-term communities and enables people to engage in healthier activities.


Chargepoint as a beacon for local stories

Non-EV drivers have the opportunity to interact with the charge point. The side of the charge point facing the pavement is designed with a flat surface to embed a poster with a QR code. The QR code directs them to a webpage hosted by the local council, with information about the charge point: what this is, how it is used, why we need it here. Some simple data visualisations, such as how many cars it has served, help to communicate to non-drivers the positive impact it has on the zero-carbon movement.

To capture attention, we invite local artists to create artworks on selected charge points that represent the locality’s cultural surroundings. These can embrace urban environments’ diverse culture and history and local stories.


Human-centred data enables convenient and sustainable lifestyle patterns

Data gathered helps people choose what works best for themselves as part of meaningful behavioural design. People need help finding chargers, so we use the GPS on users phones. Users choose the destination; users choose their preferences. TIMO shapes the choice architecture to create pathways to sustainable zero-carbon communities.

We only share the charger data such as using rate, peak time and status for research purposes. The data integrates across the entire EV mobility ecosystem, bringing all stakeholders, including non-drivers, closer together.

SPECIAL
THANKS
Team