Electric vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, urban air pollution, and fossil fuel dependence but there are barriers to adoption such as ‘range anxiety’ and lack of infrastructure. Putting in infrastructure deals with both these issues and if it is visible in the public realm, lets people know that the technology is supported and encourages adoption. But the project crosses across many jurisdictional boundaries from provincial to municipal and involves the public and land owners. All must understand the process and the public must understand what one of these charging stations is and how to recognize it in the cacophonous urban realm. This project gives instructions though graphics as to how to implement this infrastructure so all parties can clearly understand where and how this infrastructure gets installed.
Collaboration between graphic designers, architects, engineers and planners both in research, government and industry allows a clear message to come across in the charging infrastructure. Graphics on the pavement and vinyl wraps on the charging infrastructure are primary modes of communication with the public – communicating the presence and content of the new infrastructure.
Title: Electric Vehicle Charging Station
Client: Province of British Columbia
Design Firm: TIPS Lab
Design Team: AnnaLisa Meyboom, Bryan Beca, Hannah Teicher, Thomas Gaudin, Catherine He, Jason Smith
This project is helping to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles thereby helping to significantly reduce green house gases. Transportation is a primary source of emissions and a move to a greener form of transportation is a significant environmental improvement. The reduction of greenhouse gases will protect our environment and improve air quality.
This project is intended to make people aware of the infrastructure. Further, the goal was to make the public feel like infrastructure is ubiquitous. In order to do this, the EV charging station must have a strong graphic presence in the urban landscape. This project works to create that presence for the public.
This work is intended to create a recognizable brand for the public infrastructure so that no matter where it is encountered, it is recognizable. Since it is for a government body, the work is not intended to promote a product but rather to promote a green lifestyle by changing people’s behaviour and encouraging them to adopt an electric vehicle.
In order to drive an electric vehicle, the public must significantly change their idea of how far a car can go and how you fuel a car. Currently most charging is done at home and public charging is used for range extension. This project intends to encourage people to change their ideas about cars by showing that the infrastructure is available and supported thereby providing security to potential EV adopters.
This project is an ambitious and exciting multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional project which aims to make a large cultural change in order to decrease green house gas emissions. It involves extensive collaboration with multiple governments, the utility, and the public. The project is carried out with a grant across levels of government and in collaboration with research groups, industry, the utility, the government and private landowners.
The intent of the project is to install charging stations but the charging stations have multiple roles: both to charge a vehicle and extend range but also to enhance public confidence. The stations are not anticipated to immediately provide a robust business model whereby electricity can be sold for a profit and as a result, the government must take a larger role in the roll out of the infrastructure. In this project, the government and utility are sophisticated clients who realize that the public outreach and communication are essential to the uptake of this cleaner transportation technology however providing the infrastructure and a visual design that met all criteria was challenging. Public focus groups on the topic of public station branding were carried out, yet in order to do so the public had to be extensively educated on what an electric vehicle is and what a charging station is and how it is used.
The scope of the project is wide in that it first must communicate to municipalities and landowners how you site a charging station. This is done via a programming flowchart which municipalities can use to figure out where this new infrastructure should be installed. From there, the municipality works with the landowner to figure out how to install the station and what graphic elements should be put in – pavement markings, information signs and vinyl wraps on the chargers being the main elements. Visual design is key throughout the process as the communication with so many stakeholders must be clear and address multiple points of view and levels of understanding.
Looking at this project in a larger cultural context, the introduction of fast-charging stations in the early 21st century has a clear parallel with the introduction of gas stations in the early 20th century. What is the visual design language of a charging station? The image of the station can be either like a gas station or anti-gas station. The charging station design should communicate such things as: positive image and lifestyle, green energy, innovation, performance and reliability. These are fundamentally different from the gas station and the resulting physical form and visual design should reflect such an attitude. How do you represent a vehicle infrastructure which has a similar role but different scale and visual design? Further, how do you represent a new vehicle infrastructure and have it be recognized as such when the public has no idea what this infrastructure is or why it might be necessary?