frog partners with ECOtality for a new family of smart EV chargers.
The future is now. Electric vehicles (EV) are no longer a figment of your science fiction imagination. With the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt soon to appear on your local neighborhood streets, a sustainable future of alternative energy in mass transportation is just around the corner. But for electric vehicles to succeed, they must become widely adopted and accessible.
A crucial component in making this a reality and bringing the EV to consumers across the country is the cultivation and creation of electric-vehicle charging stations that are available for both residential and commercial use. frog design is proud to announce our partnership with ECOtality to address this challenge with Blink, a new family of chargers that can be easily integrated into the EV owner’s lifestyle.
The Blink Level 2 home and commercial chargers were unveiled today at the PlugIn 2010 Conference, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with ECOtality to create a new icon for a smart EV ecosystem. We are also excited to share some of the key elements of the design for both the residential and commercial chargers that truly set Blink apart.
Friendly and Familiar
Despite the complex technology behind it, Blink is friendly and unintimidating. The evolving nature and adoption of EV technologies means that our design has to be fail-proof in order to build trust among early adopters. That’s why we created a design language for Blink that echoes current driving behaviors to make the transition to an electric vehicle as easy as possible. The driver instinctively knows how to use the charger thanks to the recognizable cable wrap design. This was purposefully designed not to have moving parts that could break down over time, or complex mechanisms that might confuse users, ultimately complicating the experience.
Every garage is different, but for most consumers, restricted space and keeping things organized are major issues. We specifically designed the connector so it would not stick out from its mount, to avoid the possibility that the user could knock it off or be scratched by inadvertently brushing against it. The taper of the housing was designed so rain will run off, and the driver won’t be tempted to place their coffee cup on top of the unit, a potential hazard for the electronics it contains. Another challenge for the design of the residential version of Blink was the fact that the location of charging points varies on different EV’s. We purposefully separated the cable wrap and charger to allow the user to place it more conveniently within the garage. This ensures that if a consumer buys one electric vehicle now, the design of Blink can adapt if they purchase another brand in five or ten years.
Blink was designed to be timeless, not trendy. Understanding that the charger will live in both residential and public locations for years to come, we created a design language that will last. For public spaces in particular, we sought to create “functional architecture” and a design that will represent a new icon that drivers of electric vehicles will immediately associate with charging. Blink was also purposefully designed to move beyond the eco-friendly messaging that currently exists with hybrid vehicles in particular. To combat eco-fatigue, Blink features a basic black and white aesthetic and design language that mirrors the electronics and devices people currently trust and are familiar with. The design is fresh and made for users concerned less with “being green” and more with adopting a smarter, more sustainable way to drive.
To overcome the “range anxiety” potential drivers can feel, ECOtality will create a robust public charging network to help speed the adoption of electric vehicles. frog worked closely with ECOtality to create a design for the commercial charging unit that would fit everywhere EV drivers want to go — movie theatres, shopping malls, coffee shops, and big box stores. A light on the top of the charging unit signals to drivers that a unit is either free or engaged. EV drivers will simply travel to their normal destinations — pull up and charge.
The Blink system is fully interactive, with inviting color touch screens delivering information, relevant third-party media, and connectivity to network headquarters. Both the home and commercial design feature smart, relevant information to inform users of energy consumption behaviors over time, and the EV’s most inexpensive times to charge, communicating data via smart phone and the Web. The unit also boasts an interactive and networked platform to work in conjunction with smart grid systems.
For more details on the design of Blink, check out the video interview below with Andy Hooper, Director of Business Development for frog design.
As frog's Content and Community manager, Kristina Loring curates, writes, and edits the design mind platform. When she's not spreading frog's ideas across the Internet and the city, you can find her raving about digital activism, the power to humanize tech, and community-led innovation.