Public e-car charging – the 20-minute challenge

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The 20 minute challenge – an opportunity for automotive OEMs to provide solutions for effectively utilizing the time it takes to charge an electric car.

In this blog, my colleague Philipp Purrucker and I (Philipp M. Haaf) discuss how to convert wasted time into quality time.

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Although market domination by e-cars now looks highly probable – even inevitable – e-drivers still face several challenges. One of these challenges is how best to use the time spent waiting for high power charging (HPC) during a journey. In some countries, setting up HPC facilities along highways has reduced recharging time to 20 minutes for up to 80% of battery capacity. Still, a combustion engine needs only a fraction of this time at the gas station. Automotive OEMs have the opportunity to offer solutions that add value for driver and passengers and convert wasted time into quality time. We call this opportunity the 20- minute challenge.

This POV addresses those 20 additional in-car minutes. One possibility would be to equip charging stations with retail units where drivers and passengers could try out and buy tech hardware of high-quality consumer goods. However, this would require a heavy investment in infrastructure, so instead we will focus on centralized, digital in-car services within the multimedia interface. Just think: if Google and Facebook can earn trillions of dollars from 30 seconds of micro-moments (when people are looking at their phones), what could OEMs earn in 20 minutes?

Gamification

One way to tackle the challenge is to use in-car gamification to make the waiting time as entertaining as possible. Mercedes Benz introduced an in-car Mario Cart game fitted to its CLA model at the 2019 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Through the steering wheel, the driver can simulate a Mario Cart race on the Mercedes MBUX multimedia system, users can even feel the seat belt tightening and the wind blowing through the ventilation system.

While Mercedes mainly used the game to show what the MBUX is capable of, we’ll focus here on actual use cases – which brings us back to the 20-minute challenge. During an e-car’s charging process, where the car is not in use, a game could be a perfect way to minimize wasted time. Taking this approach to the next level, the game could easily become a multiplayer one which passengers could join via their smartphones. They could then enjoy a race with the same features as the one the driver is playing. In addition to the feeling of tightening seatbelts and airstreams, moving seats and car axles could help to create a 4D experience.

In the future, OEMs need to work on transforming the windshield and side windows into a giant user interface. Game developers have the opportunity to use the widescreen of the car and to create games that last for exactly the 20 minutes that the charging process requires. Customers could purchase games via Functions on Demand through the OEM’s app store, giving the OEM the power of a gatekeeper to control which software runs in their cars.

Video streaming

In the nearer term, another way to use the multimedia system during the charging process would be to partner with a streaming service or video provider. The car’s display and sound offer a significant advantage in quality over the smartphones drivers currently use for this purpose.

First, the driver would key in a destination, which would be used to calculate the time needed to charge the car, based on their current fill level and distance. Then a number of video shows matching the driver’s usual streaming behavior and fitting the available time window would be proposed. The algorithm used would guarantee an adequate charging volume, so that the time could be used in the most efficient way. Additionally, the shows offered would be chosen to support safe driving for the subsequent journey, according to the driver’s mood and current tiredness level.

Giving the increasing amount of time that will be spent on charging (discussed below under “Monetization and outlook”), content tailored to the duration of the charging process should be created by OEMs and content providers alike. OEMs collect a variety of information about drivers, including not only typical driving distances and behavior but also preferred content; this makes it easy to fill the time at the charging station with content customized for the individual. Consumers could buy movies, use subscription models, or pay for each use of content.

 Wellbeing

The 20 minutes can also be used to promote relaxation and wellbeing during a long journey. While current energizing packages focus on the safety of drivers who are en route, the charging process is a perfect opportunity to prepare drivers for the next stretch of their journey. The driver could be given the option to darken all windows, so no bystanders can peek into the car and occupants can relax in peace and quiet.

As an alternative to this type of peaceful isolation, the car could offer a range of relaxing sensory experiences. A meditation routine could be supported through the windshield, speaker, and air-conditioning system, including dissipating a favorite scent or making seats vibrate. A less “spiritual” driver could also use a sleep or massage mode to foster relaxation. For these features, the driver could choose between pay-per-use or a subscription model.

Shopping

Whereas the previous solutions were mainly about creating quality time in the car, our final suggestion focuses on efficient overall use of the available time. Why should valuable home time be wasted on online shopping when the job can easily be done from the car.

The driver could use the multimedia screen to shop for groceries or consumer goods. Just as the car will recognize drivers from their preferred hardware settings, the relevant shops could also recognize them and propose appropriate offers and payment methods. It’s not only online shops that could be used – it would also be possible to partner with exclusive service shops alongside highways.

Imagine getting notified about all the food courts around you via the multimedia interface, choosing your favorite burger place, and ordering directly through the car. No need to stand in line waiting for food – just walk in when it’s ready. Service providers could pay for a preferred placement in the localized search results and/or share some percentage of the channeled revenue.

Monetization and outlook

To assess the market potential for the proposed services, we calculated the hours that will be spent on HPC in the future. Our calculations show that by 2024 approximately 21 million charging processes will take place on German highways, scaling up to 75 million by 2030. Assuming that average charging time continues to be about 20 minutes, this amounts to roughly 25 million hours of charging by 2030. Assuming willingness to pay just 5 cents/minute, the total market potential adds up to 75 million euros for the respective year. And this only takes account of the German market.

Sceptics may say this does not seem like the biggest sales lever, or point out that by 2025 charging technology may improve significantly or change completely. But the services discussed above have wider relevance than just passing the time during charging. In the future, autonomous cars will need the same type of entertainment facilities in order to convert time wasted while traveling into quality time.

For further information please read our 2018 Cars Online Study or get in touch with us.

 

Philipp Purrucker

Consultant – Capgemini Invent

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