HACKATHON / INDUSTRY PROJECT
UX / UI DESIGNER
General Motors' Vision
We stand together to drive the world forward. Everybody in.
At the Industry Project kickoff, the General Motors team presented the problem space they wanted us to tackle over 24 hours.
Their goal was simple: to achieve a world with zero emissions,
zero crashes, zero congestion
The good news
and the bad news...
In the past decade, the use of electric vehicles has skyrocketed, especially with the increase in concern for the environment. In fact, according to the International Energy Agency, the US government set a target of 50 percent electric vehicle sales share by 2030.
However, despite the rise of EVs on the road, there are only 43,000 charging stations for 1,100,000 electric vehicles in the country. One of the reasons the demand for EVs has not scaled sufficiently enough is due to a lack of charging infrastructure.
A deeper dive into numerical evidence
We wanted to know whether a lack of charging infrastructure affected people who were considering purchasing an EV. As seen in the graph below, it turns out range anxiety and scarce charging stations are two of the major reasons why people don't buy EVs.
Especially given the constraints of this project, we wanted to find a realistic solution that would take minimal effort to implement but still produce a significant impact. It got us wondering whether we could try to optimize infrastructures that were already in place, in order to cut costs and make the solution more feasible.
After studying the distribution of charging stations, we noticed a pattern. For example, consider the map below showing charging stations across the state of California. Based on the map, a great number of charging stations are congregated in cities and the shortage of stations is evident -- 1 station serves approximately 26 EVs in California.
So here is what we had gathered thus far:
There is a big untapped market outside the cities of California.
There are approximately 1.1 million electric cars on the road in the United States.
Around 35% of users own their own solar panels (385,000 private charging stations).
There are around 26,000 charging stations open to the public with around 84,000 plugs.
According to our calculations, we realized that converting 15% of the private solar panel users would increase the number of plugs by 68%!
This solution would benefit multiple parties, including the existing EV users (increased availability and access to charging stations), potential EV users (reduced range anxiety), EV users with personal charging stations (ability to profit off their personal charging stations when it's unused), and EV manufacturers/companies (increase of demand in EVs)!
To actualize our solution, we asked ourselves the following question:
How might we improve current and prospective EV users' travel experience so that they feel confident and well-supported in their vehicle ownership?
John Martin, the Explorer
To better understand the needs of our users, we created a persona, John, to encapsulate the goals, pain points, traits, and desires of current EV users.
With John representing our target demographic, we came to the conclusion that a mobile application would be the best medium to facilitate the implementation of our solution.
Why a mobile application?
After some debate, our team decided to build our solution as a mobile application. Our decision was based on three factors:
1. The demographic of EV users, present and future.
According to a survey taken in January 2019, 46% of EV buyers were between the ages of 25-54.
Gen Z and millennials tend to fit into the technophile consumer category and are more likely to be early adopters of new technology. The Assurant Connected Decade 2020 study found that nearly 60% of this demographic said they're likely to buy an EV.
Based on these statistics, we can assume that the majority of EV owners are familiar and comfortable with (in addition to preferring) mobile devices as well as navigating the applications.
2. Accessibility and Mobility
These groups will also most likely have access to a mobile device on which they can easily download the app.
Moreover, the mobility of cellular devices is also a huge benefit for our solution, as we are dealing with users who are on the go and need the solution to be easily accessed wherever they are.
Compared to other platforms and devices, the nature of our solution is most compatible with mobile devices. This will be explored further when the solution is explained in the following section.
An "Airbnb App" for Charging Stations
Our solution was an application that would achieve the following:
Show users the current analytics and overall statistics of their EV
Pay for their charge through the app
Alert them when they are nearing the end of their battery life
Make their own charging station available for public use
Help them easily locate and navigate to charging stations nearby
Receive money from other users who have used their charging station
By providing intuitive navigation to charging stations near users, we are able to solve the issue of range anxiety as many more charging stations will be readily available if other EV users allow public use of their personal charging stations. Since this resolves a big reason for why people are hesitant to purchase EVs, it would increase potential buyers’ desire to follow through with their purchase.
EV owners can profit off their own charging station, which creates incentive to allow public access to their charging station, as well as incentive to purchase an EV.
WIREFRAMING & PROTOTYPING
Pushing the limits of design
Since we only had 24 hours to complete the entire project from start to finish, we had to complete the design process within the first 12 hours, in order to hand off the design to the developers. So after completing our research, analysis, and ideation, we drafted out a main task flow that would encapsulate our design solution.
Then, we got started right away on building wireframes.
The images below show our iterative progress in improving our wireframes after working through the flows amongst us designers to ensure it was intuitive and hit all our design goals and subsequently receiving feedback from our developers and data scientists.
Once the wireframes were complete, we stitched the frames together to create our first prototype.
This app wears GM
Since this was a project for General Motors, we wanted to ensure that their brand identity was not lost in our design. We also wanted to create a visual identity that was sleek, modern, somewhat futuristic, and simple. Once we had a general sense of what kind of visual identity we wanted to emulate, we looked for inspiration from other vehicle-related mobile applications.
A colour scheme was developed by centering the primary and accent colours around GM’s brand colours.
Icons and images that speak for themselves
Because we wanted to maintain a visually simple design, we knew icons would have to be very clear in what they represented, since the text accompanying it wasn’t going to be bold. We selected icons that would work even without accompanying text to convey its function/representation.
Navigation Bar Icons
You can never iterate too much
Naturally, our product being built within 24 hours means that there is a lot of room for iterations.
Some features we would like to add
Directions Options: Add filter to directions (e.g., avoid tolls, fastest route, monitor traffic, etc.).
Detailed Car Analytics: User can view statistics about how long/how often they are driving, the average distance of their trips, etc. so that they can be notified to charge in advance. It can also be used to show users how they are minimizing their carbon footprint by driving an EV.
Notifications: Users are notified when someone is arriving to use their charging station.
Some kinks to straighten out
Sort Results: Add more options to the sort filter and convert the pop-up into a page.
User Testing: Using user test feedback, determine iterations to be made to the existing flow.
Other flows to add
User’s Charging Station: User can make their personal charging station available to the public at a cost. The flow would include the user adding the location of their charging station, their price to charge, and their availability.
Charging Appointments: Users can check who is coming to user their charging station. Users can also confirm their own charging appointments at other stations and edit/cancel the appointments if necessary.
Car Analytics: Users can view specific statistics about their EV, as well as a manual for troubleshooting their vehicle.
What I learned during those 24 hours
Amazing things can be achieved in as little as 24 hours, especially if you're working in collaboration.
Take small steps towards larger goals. MyGM App doesn't singularly accomplish Goal Zero, but it's one of many cumulative solutions.
Collaboration requires patience and understanding but produces great outcome that can’t be achieved alone.