“As a climate-concerned budget-conscious EV owner, where, when, and how is the best way to charge my vehicle to have the least impact on the planet and save the most money?”
The EV market is slated to grow to 100% adoption by 2040 (Jenkins, 2022). As government infrastructure investments pay off, consumers will have more and more ways to charge. As of June 2023, there were 2.7 million public charging points worldwide, a 55% increase from 2021, and comparable to the 50% growth rate between 2015 and 2019 (IEA 2023). In the US, there are more than 160,000 stations, double that of 2019 (AFDC, 2024) but still not enough for the 2,442,270 electric vehicle owners making finding an operable station in today’s availability challenging. As more chargers become available, deciding where and when to charge will become increasingly complicated. 60% of EV owners have experienced charging anxiety (EVSE, 2023), because of problems at ports or not understanding charging pricing at home.
Unknowns and failures are daunting for cost and climate-impact conscious EV owners. According to a Pew Research Center survey (Spencer et al. 2023), about 70% of those who buy an EV say that saving money on gas is a major reason but another 72% say helping the environment was a major purchase reason, suggesting intrinsic motivation to buy EVs for the benefits they provide financially, emotionally, and for the planet. Unknowns include variable hourly costs and differences station-by-station and home, different available charging speeds across stations, and often plug compatibility can be limited. Failures like station downtime, vehicle-grid interoperability, equipment failure, no port availability, or ICEing are frustrating, contributing to charging anxiety and likely reducing the number of EVs on the road and the positive impact more EVs could have. The good news is that of those barriers, vehicle-grid interoperability, charging speeds, charging costs, and reliability issues can be significantly mitigated by a variety of technologies, available data sharing, and consolidation techniques (Energy5, 2023).
Solving the charging problem is relevant now, because it is the optimal time to capture the growing EV market, quickly expanding infrastructure and station market, and help owners who are frustrated with current apps that don’t consolidate their needs, payments, and desired personal tolerances for cost and climate impact.
25 EV owners were surveyed to gain a deep understanding of the problems with charging an EV at home and public or private charging stations. Specifically, the survey sought to understand:
- How do EV owners currently charge their cars?
- How challenging is the charging process?
- What are the specific paint points when charging?
- What helps guide EV owners in their decision-making when charging?
- What would the desired outcome of charging more efficiently, environmentally friendly, and cheaply look like for them?
- Efficiency in this case is defined by being able to show up at a station that works and not have to go to another one.
- Environmentally friendly is defined by knowing peak hours or when renewable energy is being used.
- Cheaply means that the station advertises the pricing per kW.
User Pain Points
Across all survey participants, I found three major pain points with their jobs-to be-done when charging, and across all paint points EV owners want solutions that give them “choice and ease”.
WHERE do I charge?
Time2Charge users should be able to find where available, cost-effective, and reliable stations are easily and quickly using real-time information delivered just in time to avoid station unknowns and failures that cost more time, money, and frustration.
WHEN do I need to charge?
Time2Charge should help users know when they need to charge based on their EV usage needs to keep users on the road with the confidence to get wherever they need to go whenever they need to get there.
HOW do I charge?
Time2Charge should help climate-conscious users understand when off-peak hours are and if renewable energy is being used both at home or by public or private stations so how they charge makes the least impact on the planet.
Our quantitative data results elucidated specific details for potential solutions.
- 75% want to know when it’s cheapest to charge during the day or across stations.
- 50% of users try to avoid charging anxiety by remembering station proximity, reliability, and availability, and fail 75% of the time.
- 60% try to charge based on need or calendered trips but 80% fail because it is too hard to figure out.
- 100% of potential customers want to know when charging locations when using renewable energy.
- 60% want to measure their charging carbon footprint and climate impact.
During the initial research phase into the background of the problem, it was apparent that the ‘where’ and ‘how’ to charge would be pain points for users. What was surprising and not anticipated was the ‘when’. When, in this case, has to do with how far an EV will be driven across the day relative to where and how long it will be charged. This is especially important for users who do not have access to chargers at home, a critical group of EV owners that must be supported to maximize the benefits of EVs in reducing climate change. As one EV owner stated:
“I just want one platform! One reliable source of information with availability, reliability, payments, and functionality, to help me have the least impact on the planet. And tell me based on my need, please!”
This final insight into the problem statement will not only provide new features to solve the problem for EV owners, initial competitive review indicates that it will differentiate the app from competitors.
Landing on the Solution
Based on our qualitative and quantitative research, the primary feature set that the app needed to provide included:
- Delivering real-time data on nearby charging stations
- Data should include station availability, port reliability, cost spreads, peak hours, and time and use of renewable sources
- Recording preferences to filter stations and facilitate climate-impact choices
- Integrate with user calendars to calculate distances between event locations and match that to the current battery charge
- Inform and interact with users simply and just in time to update owners on battery status based on need.
Explanation of Solution
Time2Charge is a mobile app that retrieves real-time data from charging stations and electricity providers to provide users with the information they need to easily make choices about where, when, and how to charge. Data is pulled through open source and public and private station APIs to inform owners about station availability, reliability, compatibility, cost, and energy sources in real-time. A simple calendar integration allows for Time2Charge to calculate ‘EV need’ and the associated battery charge to fulfill it. Notifications provide a simple interactive communication strategy for users to stay informed, on the road, and with enough charge to get there.
The MVP will include:
- Basic charge stats, event needs
- If user charges at home, peak hours or renewable sources are indicated with an icon
- Search for stations
- Station list with simple icons
- Details about station
- Import events and calculate distance
User preference page
- Owner Name
- EV Make, model, year
- Integration texts if battery charge will cover events or not and if not asks the user through buttons if they want to search for stations.
- Conduct a detailed competitive analysis of top 5 app!
- Conduct additional surveys with current and incoming EV users to test current features, discover additional features, and prioritize the roadmap
Example V2 Mock Up
Product Manager Learnings:
Think like Albert Einstein and spend 55 minutes on the problem, and 5 on the solution. DO THE RESEARCH. I promise it is fun, will teach you to test preconceived nations with real results, help you know who your customer is, and help you make data-driven decisions.
Then go talk to customers, and LISTEN. This is critical. The more you ask about the pain associated with a job they are trying to do, why they are trying to do it, and what outcome it gives them, the better equipped you are to solve the problem. That’s the job.
There are so many hidden gems that customers give you, but test them because you still have a business to run. How? Talk to more customers.
Take the time to write things down and challenge what you think. Fail on paper, you will get better and better. I rewrote my drafts for each assignment 3 times. It was work, it was hard, but it was soooo much fun!
Ask for help, collaborate, lean into the conversation, and feedback. People will help and CoLab folks even more so, I promise it is magic.
Full Team Learning