Rest + Recharge is a collaboration between Emily Carr University of Art + Design (ECUAD) students Amanda Klassen, Ada Chiu and Kevin Tsuyuki Tomlinson, and Powertech®, a company specializing in clean energy consulting, testing, and solutions.
Electric vehicles (EV) can be recharged from a standard wall socket (12o Volt); they are generally viewed as a transportation solution for shorter urban trips rather than longer excursions. This perception of limitation is a major barrier to adoption. However, interurban travel can be viable through level three “fast” charging, a 500 Volt DC high-current charging, which allows users to recharge EV batteries in less than 30 minutes. This project proposes a network of fast charging stations that transform existing rest stop infrastructure into “rest and recharge” stops. This solution transforms and broadens the type of travel that is possible for electric vehicle drivers, and enables users to positively experience recharging times while engaging with the environment and communities that they are passing through.
Background information// The Trans-Canada Highway is the longest road ever constructed; unfortunately, electric vehicles (EV) face serious limitations for interurban travel. We need a system that allows for long-distance travel and uses short-range technology to help facilitate the switch from petroleum to a cleaner energy source. The problem of potentially long wait times to receive full charges should be addressed.
Maybe extended wait times are not a problem – maybe it is how we wait. Can we design a charging system for the EV that allows interurban travel – without the burden of waiting? We cannot guarantee everyone will have a positive experience waiting, but we can design objects that act as positive “emotional levers,” by understanding both the user and the environment (Forlizzi, DiSalvo & Hamilton, 2003)
A CHAdeMO standardized Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) or charging unit placed anywhere on the Trans-Canada Highway will need to withstand weather extremes in every region of Canada. As it stands, none of the existing CHAdeMO EVSEs fall within acceptable temperature ranges (CHAdeMO Association, 2003). The concept discussed in this paper also considers features such as a payment system for non-physical money; an intuitive touch-screen interface with LED indicators, and a sleek design that entices support for EV technology, a design language that is appropriate to EV technology and the principles behind green energy sources.
A map and information card, identifying all nearby charging stations and distances, would be available at each station. This navigational tool could also be educational, providing information on agriculture, the region’s history, and local recreational services (Readers Digest, 2001). The cards could be collectible and serially numbered; design features such as the ‘R’ rating (= rarity) would communicate that the card is unique and produced in a limited quantity. Flipping over the Quest card would reveal a map with all the Rest + Recharge stops in a 300km radius; connecting the complete set of issued cards would create a map of the Trans-Canada Highway. The playful aspect of the informational cards could help children to cope better with extended travel time.
The puck was designed as a time management device dispensed from the charger and it could be pocketed or clipped onto the users pant loop. With an energy efficient OLED display, the device would provide a live feed of the charge status, current charges (including overtime charges) and current time. This would allow the user to leave their car while it charges and take advantage of the activities in the area. As the locations proposed tend to be primarily rest areas, it was important to help users manage their time efficiently; walking distance from a given location back to the charging station was converted to walking time.
Over a two-month period we met with professionals from Powertech® –two engineers, a product developer and a marketing manager– who provided crucial background information and technical expertise. We also met with Rob Inkster, Associate Vice President, Research and Industry Liaison at ECUAD, Brian Beck of the City of Vancouver Sustainability Group, and the art director of Whitebox Studios, Greg Corrigan. Each meeting informed our concept and influenced our design direction.
A literature review became extraordinarily important during our ideation and early conceptual development phases. Statistics Canada was used to find patterns in Canadian demographics that were relevant to this project—such as salary scales and spending habits (Statistics Canada, 2010). This information helped us re-frame the design problem in terms of affordability, accessibility, and desirability. Reviewing of CHAdeMO protocol standards for designing EVSEs provided essential guidelines for the prototyping and testing stages.
Research also included the review of a collection of articles relevant to the technologies developed at Powertech® and a tour of the company’s facilities. This provided insight into the company’s most current innovations.
Precedence research on EV rest stops in countries pursuing EV technology brought us to the Japanese Expressway case. The Ebina SA rest stop along the Tomei highway is built around a shopping mall and other services including dining and sightseeing (Ebina SA, 2010). While this scale is not expected for Canada, it provided a successful example of economic activity at rest stop locations.
Clean Motion Survey
In the early stages of our research, and following approval from the University’s Research Ethics Board, we developed an online survey of thirteen questions to collect potential user data using the online tool SurveyMonkey™. A total of 98 participants completed the survey; a significant number of respondents were middle-aged adults. The collected data included information on road trip frequency, average distance travelled and the driver’s main motive for road trips.
Full scale models of EVSE, Puck and the Quest card were produced for testing—three adult participants were observed while role-playing different scenarios. Prototyping and testing the items multiple times allowed the design team to refine the design and provide important information on ergonomic functions.
William, age eight, was our co-designer from a local day care. He was presented with the collection of Quest cards and was immediately engaged. After reading the quick regional facts, he informed us that he preferred non-fictional facts over fictional, i.e., he was not interested in the imaginary profiles on the Pokemon® cards. Flipping over the card I watched him trace his finger over the segment of the Trans-Canada Highway and he instantly understood the indications for nearby EV charging stations. William’s engagement and his request to keep the cards reassured us that the visual language and information selection was appropriate for children as an educational tool.
The EV can only travel 160km at maximum before it must stop to recharge; the fastest way to recharge would be via level three charging, which would take approximately 25 minutes (variable depending on current battery status among other factors)(Coloumb Tech, 2010). The design team chose a scenic urban space in the False Creek area to set up a Rest + Recharge station and conducted a role-play testing session with user Adina, age 33.
Adina imagined she was driving an EV from Vancouver, BC to Kamloops, BC, a typical Highway on Trans-Canada route. Her first stop is just before Chilliwack, BC (~100km). The chargers were designed to be instantly recognized—six feet high with an illuminating plug icon on the front surface. Pulling up to the first available parking spot next to a charger, she turns off the car and hops out to set up the charge. On the charger’s touch screen interface, Adina first makes the language selection (English, French, etc) and then follows the directions to insert and remove her credit or debit card to release the nozzle. After plugging in the nozzle to power the battery, she is prompted to take the puck to keep track of the charging time. Next on the interface, the local Quest card is offered for purchase at a cost of $2.00; Adina purchases the card. The recreation legend indicates that there is a nature path nearby, and she ventures out for the remaining rest period. Ten minutes remain for a full charge and the puck vibrates and emits a chiming tone. Adina glances at the puck and presses the single button to navigate through the interface. Discovering she is only a two-minute walking distance from the car – she continues reading a book until the remaining time on the puck indicates two minutes. Once the puck is returned, the car is unlocked and the nozzle returned to its casing unit. Prior to departure, Adina scans the back of the card to locate the next rest location.
Our survey results provided helpful information for the design of our benefits diagram. The diagram illustrated the social, ecological and economic benefits.
From the data collected in our “Clean Motion” survey it was determined that family visits are the main motivation and reason for road trips. People need the confidence that an electric vehicle can go the distance to visit their family before they will make this technology switch.
Our concept lessens the dependency on petroleum, and offers a direct and positive ecological impact.
Data collected from our “Clean Motion” survey indicated that on average, people leave their city of residence, by vehicle, four times a year. The average distance travelled each trip is approximately 400 km each way, totaling 3,200 km per year travelled specifically during road trips. Family visits were identified as the main motivation for road trip travel. Shopping and leisure ranked second, accounting for 46% of trips, with cross border or cross Canada destinations. Rest + Recharge stations could expand to provide additional services as revenue streams for local communities.
Brian Beck of the City of Vancouver indicates that 15% of the Greater Vancouver population will become EV owners by 2020. However, only one level three charger exists in the entire country today. He also stated that the Nissan LEAF™, a major competitor in the EV market, wouldn’t be available in Canada until 2015. It is evident that a large-scale adoption of EVs will not be rapid as we transition from gas-fueled vehicles.
Our feasibility diagram roughly outlines how such a system could be implemented: following analysis and verification of the rest stops by Powertech®, people who are interested in conducting business on the provincially-owned rest stops could do so by investing in the purchase of an EVSE. There are many government incentive programs offering millions of dollars in funding towards clean transportation awareness and systems development (Transport Canada, 2010).
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- Figure 1. Ada Chiu, Amanda Klassen, Kevin Tsuyuki Tomlinson, 2010.
- Figure 2. Amanda Klassen, 2010.
- Figure 3. Ada Chiu, Amanda Klassen, 2010.
- Figure 4. Amanda Klassen, Kevin Tsuyuki Tomlinson, 2010.
- Figure 5.Ada Chiu, Amanda Klassen, Kevin Tsuyuki Tomlinson, 2010.