BACKGROUND

I perused existing literature on electric vehicles, in the form of academic papers, as well as blog posts on Reddit and Quora. Some of the motivations behind users adopting e-vehicles are as follows:

  1. Cost Effective: In the longer run, an e-vehicle driver saves on a lot of money that was otherwise being spent on fuel.
  2. Fuel-less Experience: Ideally, an e-vehicle driver never has to stop at a gas station, since users have regular charging routines that involve their own houses or their work places..
  3. Eco-Friendly: E-vehicles are more environment friendly than gasoline vehicles. For those concerned about environment change and global warming, this is the biggest selling point.


Quora and Reddit articles showcasing problems with electric vehicle usage

Having some idea about the problem space, I planned each phase of the project. Since I was short on time, I decided to focus less on the formative-research, and focused my effort on designing the applicatiion. Unfortunately, the timeline did not permit me to undertake an evaluation of my prototype.

USER INTERVIEWS

I recruited 4 owners of electric vehicles and conducted remote unstructured interviews pertaining to the problems they faced in the adoption of e-vehicles. The interviews were conducted telephonically and lasted 25 minutes. Analysis of the data revealed common problems as shown below:


Battery Associated
Issues

The batteries of electric vehicles are toxic, and are the only unclean aspect of the vehicle. Moreover, battery life is affected by prolonged non-usage and overcharging.


Maintenance
Issues

Users are not educated about the functioning of e-vehicles. There is sparcity of service stations and power stations in most countries.


Expensive
Setup

e-vehicles are expensive, and the setup cost of installing the infrastructure for charging at one's home can be expensive.


Need for
Planning

Impromptu trips with these cars are frightening, as the battery consumption depends on factors like load, no. of passengers and even weather.

We encapsulated our research findings in the form of personae, to address those that we were designing for while keeping our solutions user-centered. The two personae we devised were different in their usage of vehicles, as well as in the availability of charging outlets:

IDEATION

At this stage we decided to reframe the problem statement to incorporate all that we had learnt. Instead of designing for unknown users, we focused our efforts to design for the two personae we came up with. This ensured that our designs were user centered.

How might we help Fahad and Hema have better experiences with battery managment and maintenance?

The proposed solution is an app that helps an electrical vehicle user monitor their battery usage and other health parameters. The vehicle’s internal systems are fitted with IoT devices, sending data to the app, and the user can make sense of them through data viz techniques.

The designs were made with the assumption that ChargeIt is a mobile application that electrical vehicle dealers can sell as part of the e-vehicle package. The users can then monitor their vehicles through this application, and their travelling experience is in turn enhanced.

USER FLOWS AND WIREFRAMES

I mapped out how the user will interact with the mobile application using user flows. I made different flows for the onboarding, linking one's car to the application, making a trip, and detecting/reporting car issues. I followed the following conventions for the user flows:



Legend for User Flow

The flows were an effective way of quickly visualizing how the proposed solution would work. Since they were low effort, as well as easy to redo, they helped create multiple iterations, and to identify potential issues and edge cases. The flows that were finally implemented are shown below.

We then converted the user flows into low-fidelity wireframes. The wireframes were designed on Balsamiq Wireframes. Designing the wireframes uncovered multiple problems in the flows, which resulted in reiterations. The flow of the app using wireframes is shown below:

HIGH FI PROTOTYPING

To develop high-fidelity prototypes, we first developed a style guide for our application. The application required a clean, minimal workhorse font. We decided to use Montserrat. Further, we chose green as the primary color for the app, as e-vehicles are eco-friendly.

The result of my labors was an application that ensures you never run out of charge on your e-vehicle again. Presenting ChargeIt, a mobile application that helps you manage and track your electric vehicles parameters remotely through IOT technology.

A dashboard for your vehicle that shows you all the relevant information pertaining to your vehicle’s health. ChargeIt has three components that you can navigate to through the ham menu.

  1. Preventing overcharging of e-vehicle while parked for long hours, monitoring through the dashbaord.
  2. Efficiently managing fuel while taking planned or unplanned trips.
  3. Providing maintenance support when the e-vehicle is in need of servicing or repair, through tickets.

Worried about overcharging your vehicle in the garage? ChargeIt will notify you as soon as your vehicle has reached sufficient charge, and prompt you to disconnect the charger. The notification system ensures that you do not keep worrying about the battery life intermittently. You can also monitor the current battery level through the dashboard.

ChargeIt helps you drive without having to continuously calculate whether you have enough fuel for a given trip. ChargeIt supports two types of trips:

  1. Planned Trips: when you have a given destination in mind, and want to ensure you reach their with minimum detours.
  2. Unplanned Trips: when you don't have a preset destination, and just want to start drivings.

Don't overthink your planned trips. Now no matter what your vehicle’s battery, ChargeIt will ensure that you can reach where you want to go by processing fastest path including power stations and time stops on the way.

Never leave the house unprepared. Just enter the destination and the number of passengers, while in the comfort of your home, and ChargeIt will calculate how much battery the trip will consume.

Having calculated the battery requirement as per your specification, ChargeIt will process the best possible path for you. If you have sufficient battery, you’re good to go. Otherwise, ChargeIt will start navigation and accomodate power stations with stop times automatically.

Sometimes, you just have to make impromptu unplanned trips. These are trips where we do not know the exact specifications of a trip before hand. Be it a long drive, or a long errand, this happens to us quite frequently.

ChargeIt gives you the flexibility to accomodate this situation. It dynamically calculates the battery consumption for the journey home, and gives you alerts when it’s just enough to make it.

Car maintenance has never been this easy. Not only does the IOT system automatically detect issues with the vehicle’s functioning, you can add issues you notice to the app, manually. This helps you keep track of everything at one place. The app also keeps a track of all issues till date so that the user can easily look back on this data if needed.

Each issue gets an independent ticket that contains all of the details related to that issue. They can be forwarded to the service centers with additional information, or the user may choose to resolve it themselves.

LESSONS LEARNED

  1. Value of Research: This project made me learn that research is a crucial part of the design process, and it will come to bite you later if you don't invest adequate efforts. While the 4 user interviews gave me some context about the user needs, I never felt confident I was designing the right solution.
  2. Importance of Experts: I learned that a UX Designer alone cannot devise a digital solution, even if it is a mobile application. You need domain experts to validate your ideas. Luckily for me, I had access to Mechanical Engineers who were actively working on e-Vehicles and IOT technology, to educate me about what is feasible (and possible).
  3. User flows and Iterative Design: I fell in love with making user flows over the course of this project. Even a seemingly simple flow such as onboarding has so many edge cases once you begin implementing it. I loved how low cost creating user flow diagrams were, and I would recreate them every time I came up against a wall.


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