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Better Electric Vehicle Charging

March - July 2023


Role: Researcher and UX Designer

In a visit to Seattle, WA, March of 2023, I rented an Tesla to get around. Driving the vehicle was great, but charging it was not. Due to my difficulties, I was inspired to learn of other EV drivers experiences when it comes to charging and clarify pain points and suggest some solutions to standardizing the public charging experience. Work was completed in Google Forms and Figma. Illustrations done in Illustrator.

Problem Statement

EV charging is inefficient, complex and has no industry standard.

Project Flow

Click the Project Flow Point to learn more information about that point. Or scroll to learn about the whole journey. 


Research relied heavily on user feedback and deep understanding of how users interact with public chargers.

User Interviews

With various chargers across the United States, I decided to keep my user interviews domestically, open to any user who uses public chargers, as long as they operate (not necessarily own) an Electric Vehicle (EV). Interviewed users had to be legal drivers (above the age of 16).

An anonymous man charging an EV

I recruited 12 interviews through Reddit: Subreddits r/Electriccars, r/SurveyExchange, and r/SampleSize. 1 interview was recommended to me through a personal contact and conducted over the phone. 13 questions were asked, most of which were quantitative data regarding the type of EV the user drove, and how often and long they charge. At the end, 5 qualitative questions were asked in order to identify pain points and wishes of the charging experience.

The following quantitative data was found:

  • 11/13 participants reported operating an EV

  • 45% reported operating a Tesla

  • 18% have a Kia

  • and 18% have a Hyundai

  • 45% of users reported charging on public chargers more than half the time they charged, and 45% of charging is reported to be paid for completely (not subsidized or free)

  • Tesla and Electrify America operates the majority of chargers, but the field is very diversified: SharePoint, Ivy, Instant Volt and Allegro are common chargers as well.

  • 45% of chargers are Fast Chargers, 18% are level 2

  • 81% of Users charge for more than 21 minutes

  • 45% report walking around and shopping while charging. 27% report remaining in their car

In my Qualitative questions, users answered open form about the strengths and weaknesses they experience while charging. Half of users report having a simple plug in-charge-plug out-and go experience (Tesla) BUT, the other half report having to check the apps, or purchase via app, complicating charging.

A woman driving a car looking frustrated out the window

The Frustrations were:

  • Damaged cords and machines

  • Unclear Rate of charge

  • Rate being by time and not energy delivered

  • Compounded by energy delivered being reduced at certain times

  • Lack of cell service to activate charge via app

  • Unclear instructions

Users wished for the following:

  • Just pay and charge with no app

  • Wishes to see the status of the charger without app functionality

  • while charging, is the charge diminishing?

  • Wishes to see the rate at all times

  • Wishes rate to be by energy amount, not time

  • Competitive Pricing

  • More chargers

  • More plug and charge - so simple!

  • Standardized cord



Lets compare electric charging to the gas station experience and Tesla’s Superchargers which are simpler but exclusive.

Gas Stations

In order for EV to become more successful, it needs to compete with gas cars and the experience users expect from their history of gas fueled vehicles. The typical experience of fueling one car starts by driving down the road. Users may notice they are low on fuel and look for a gas station, but often times, they simply see a great gas price on signage. They subsequently pull in, park, remove nozzle from gas pump and insert nozzle into their vehicle’s gas tank, choose grade of gas and begin fueling. To pay, users can simply use their credit card at the pump to pay. The process takes less than 5 minutes, and the user is on their way.

There are 3 interfaces the user works with in this scenario; the car, the pump and the credit card reader.

Generic Gast station with car at a pump
Photo of Superchargers

Tesla Superchargers

Tesla has a simple plug-charge-go flow. Users driving Tesla cars are informed of their low charge amount on the car dash/tablet. From here they can locate the nearest Tesla charger. The user then parks at one of these chargers, unlocks their charge port, plugs in and automatically starts charging. The charging will be charged to their account registered with Tesla. Once charging is completed, the user unplugs and departs. 
Users without Tesla cars can still charge on Tesla’s Superchargers. However, they must have the Tesla app with their registered credit card information in order to use and locate a pump. They can only use Superchargers with the Magic Dock equipped, which allows a standard charge port to function with Tesla’s charge cables.
Using a Supercharger means interacting with the car, possibly the app, and the charger. Payment is a passive interaction.

Photo by Trac Vu on Unsplash

All interviewees had unique experiences with varying health insurance. However, our data skewed towards College-Educated users, though there were users with less education as well. Our data does not fully represent American Diversity. Our data skews toward White, Native American, and Asian users.​

The average user operates a Tesla. They do half of their charging in public and pay for it in full at all-times. Their favored charge spot, due to location convenience, is a public charger -not associated with Tesla- at a strip mall (mall with big box and little box stores like Target, teriyaki chicken restaurant, a grocery store, and pet supply store). They typically charge on a Fast Charger for 30 minutes while shopping but will remain parked in the charge spot for up to an hour while shopping. They are frustrated by the multiple interfaces they must navigate through in order to charge; car > app > car > charger > app > car. They wish their preferred charger was as easy as a Tesla Super Charger. They are also frustrated by the inconsistent rate of charge and the rate of charge/time. Usually, the car is charged after 30 minutes, but there are times where the rate of electricity transferred in 30 minutes is reduced and does not fully charge the car. If the shopping center is busy, there may not be an open and operating charger for them to use and may cancel their shopping plans or try to squeeze their charge in-between shopping.

Average User


Below is the synthesis of this average user, a Persona named Grergory Song

Persona of an Average EV User named Gregory Song


The following 3 solutions are ideas that may solve these pain points, improve charging satisfaction and consequently increase EV ownership.


Taking a cue from competitor gas stations, electric charging fees should be visible from the street. This is where pricing will be listed in Kilowatt Hours (kWh). EV drivers typically know the amount of kWh that their EV needs, like one knows how many gallons or kiloliters of gas their gasoline car takes. This way, the pricing is fair and consistent despite when energy transfer is tampered. 

With current technology, it does take longer to charge an EV than gas a car. As evidence, half of EV users will leave their car while charging. This is a great opportunity for businesses to obtain customers. But where are users when their EV is done charging? Often still shopping. How can we encourage guests to return to their EVs, and leave the chargers to the next users? Two suggestions:

  1. Charge a parking fee after their charging fee. This can be more or less than the actual charge rate, but is dependent on time, not energy amount.

  2. Text reminders. By texting a number associated with the Charger, or even scanning a QR code, Users can receive updates to their charge and rates while they shop, without downloading another app. This leads into my next point.

Mocked-up sign for Public Chargingdetailing charge at $0.20 kWh and $2.50 an hour for parking

Less Apps and Less WIFI Requirements

With the amount of interfaces current users interact with, there are more chances that each step of the interaction will go poorly or divert from the happy path-the user flow designed for the best user interaction. Tesla is currently winning the EV market because their smart charges eliminate the payment interface, instead recognizing the car, time charging and charging the account automatically. All EV chargers could offer this with a simple registration on their app that automatically recognizes the car, but not all cars have the devices that will make them recognizable. Furthermore, without stable wifi or service, accessing the payment portal on mobile devices can be interrupted on defunct.
Instead, the solution should be based on the charger itself. Like a gas station, the car pulls up to the charger, simply swipes, taps, or inserts their credit/debit card to register their payment and activate the charger, takes the plug, plugs it into the EV and starts charge. The less actions on the user's end, the more chance of a successful interaction. The chargers should rely on a lined connection, regardless of the mobile stability of the network.

Illustration of EV backing up into charge spot

Step 1: Park

Illustration of user taping their credit card to activate the chager

Step 2: Tap (or Insert) Card

Illustration of User pluging charger into EV

Step 3: Plug-in

Illustration of EV charging, battery becoming 100%

Step 4: Charge

Charger Availability Cues

Another interaction that is complicating the user interaction with a charger is finding a charger on their app screen. Often, these chargers have complicated names, where the only difference between them and their neighbor is two digits on the end. The user has to leave their vehicle to locate the number on the corresponding charger, and may have to return to their EV to relocated to the right parking spot. Users are not given the greatest chance to observe maps of chargers before arriving, as they are driving. EVs and EV chargers should be designed away from distracted driving in all instances.

One solution would be to practice simpler naming conventions. Say if chargers were on Northwestern University campus, the Charger names could be names like “Willie,” “Wildcat,” “Go Purple,” etc. The actual name of the charger could keep its long string name on the backend but have various nicknames that are clearly labeled in large print on the charger itself allow for easy identification from driving users.

Image showing an EV Charger with lights. The green light indicating availibility. The red light indicating in-use

An easier solution is to remove the booking of a charger altogether on an app and have visual cues that a charger is available. To go along with the simple tap payment and charge method mentioned previously, that eliminates the need for an app. Light signals could be placed above chargers. Like stop lights, green could mean “go”-available to charge, yellow could mean “caution”-this charger needs servicing, and red could mean “stop”-this charger is unavailable. We could even incorporate a flashing green to notify current and future users that the charge is completed and the current car should and could be moved soon.


Charger Availability Cues


Part of the reason why driving EV has not won the masses, despite becoming more affordable, is the thought that the infrastructure is not there. The infrastructure is being developed as fast as possible, and in urban centers IS there. However, the if charging infrastructure is not better than gas stations, EV will not succeed.  The market must recognize these user frustrations and create solutions, like the ones mentioned here, to be convenient, fast and quick to charge one’s EV. Clear signage and cues, and less steps for users is key to designing better Public EV Chargers.

Part of the reason why driving EV has not won the masses, despite becoming more affordable, is the thought that the infrastructure is not there. The infrastructure is being developed as fast as possible, and in urban centers IS there. However, the if charging infrastructure is not better than gas stations, EV will not succeed.  The market must recognize these user frustrations and create solutions, like the ones mentioned here, to be convenient, fast and quick to charge one’s EV. Clear signage and cues, and less steps for users is key to designing better Public EV Chargers.

Next Steps

In order to see if these 3 presented solutions are doable is to speak with the hardware designers of EV chargers. If they can build these assets, user testing and refining would need to be done.

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