TIMO is a human-centred data platform that connects drivers and communities across the network of 25,000 EV charge points in the UK. It works as an integration to existing map apps such as Google and Waze to provide a seamless service. In addition, we envisioned TIMO to continue fostering engagement with non-EV drivers, finally shaping a dynamic and adaptive system and a zero-carbon future with all.
The UK is moving to a ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars in 2030. Meanwhile, there are 8M+ households that do not have access to a driveway in which to install their own charging device.
With the new iconic street charge point designed by OZEV, how can we provide a comprehensive new vision for charging and encourage people to confidently step forward into the zero-carbon era?
The project was presented to PA Consulting who gave us the brief. They liked the proposal and praised Timo to be “the most holistic solution” for the project brief. The project report was graded “Excellent” for the Social Innovation and Future Services module.
Timo was created from a smooth collaboration of a RCA MA Service Design team with backgrounds in computer science, finance, humanities and media design (and me).
On top of participating in the full service design process, my role in the team focused on research, insights synthesis, ideation, prototype and the design of presentation and report.
The UK is moving to a ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars in 2030. Facing this transition to a zero-carbon future, we 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:
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.
After extensive primary research, we mapped our findings to conclude the following insights.
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.
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.
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.
make charging time spent more valuable for current and future EV drivers
people can create meaningful time into their daily routines
building new experiences that enable living, sharing and mobility in the city?
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:
Based on this, we generated our design directions:
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.
Upon a careful stakeholder analysis, we created a strategy to inspire change from the centre to the rim like a ripple:
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.
TIMO is a human-centred data platform that connects drivers and communities across the dynamic network of EV charge points in the UK.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Thank you for reading this far!
You can also find our full report here.