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EV Range Explorer

Deeply embedding range status in the UX of electric cars

Accelerating the advent of sustainable energy production and consumption is widely considered one of the most important and pressing issues of the next decades and electric vehicles (EV) are one key puzzle piece.

Adoption of EVs is hindered by an unfortunate dilemma: until a major technological breakthrough is achieved, EV batteries will continue to be very expensive and the only way to make competitive cars to conventional gasoline fueled options from a price perspective is to reduce battery size and with that range.

From mostly every other perspective, EVs are in my opinion already superior to internal combustion engine cars (ICE). I very clearly remember the first time I drove a fully electric 1er BMW from DriveNow for a day around 2013 -- it was an absolute game changer in the way I think about EVs; it was extremely fun, fast, silent and not having to worry about range made in even better (as a one day lease, someone else had to worry about recharging it).

Owning such a car would have been out of question though, partly because of the very few charging options around Berlin back then, the very limited range (about 120km) and a price tag of a luxury sports car.

Battery technology improved, and prices came down tremendously over the course of the next years -- a comparable car to the 1er BMW I drove in 2013 would cost about the same as a high end VW Golf, which is still expensive, but nowhere near as much as back then.

Coming back to the dilemma mentioned previously: reducing EV cost further than a Tesla Model 3 at about the cost of the mentioned high end Golf will require reducing battery range, because there does not seem to be a major technological battery breakthrough on the horizon, introducing the issue of range anxiety.

Henry Lee of Harvard Kennedy School stresses that “range anxiety is likely to remain until battery technology improves.”

So if the only way to make cheaper EVs from here on for the foreseeable future is to reduce battery size, everything that attenuates range anxiety could help further adoption of sustainable transport options and be a valuable contribution.

Here I aim to investigate ways to help alleviate range anxiety through creative interface design that communicates the status of the car, charging network and effect of charging on the range very clearly and intuitively.

In the following, range anxiety is further described from a technical and psychological perspective, information visualization techniques that may be useful in alleviating it summarized and finally concrete UI designs introduced.

I fundamentally think that range status should be deeply embedded in the UX of electric cars and hopefully herewith propose convincing measures to do so.

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foto: Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk foto: Prof. Dr. Frank Heidmann


Sommersemester 2019