On this episode, we’re extending our conversation on mobility with a focus on electric vehicles (EVs). Once the domain for early adopters and the eco-conscious only, EVs are on their way to becoming a way of life for drivers all over the globe. To discuss the way our world may change in the era of recharging vs. refueling, we’re joined by Melodie Hoke, Director of Product Design in frog’s London studio and lead of frog’s automotive practice in the UK. Melodie led a team exploring the new services, products and spaces that may emerge enabled by eMobility, and arrived at five concepts for EV futures.
To dig in even more about mobility, download the new frog report ‘The Road Ahead.’
Design Mind frogcast
Episode 31: Five Concepts for EV Futures
Guest: Melodie Hoke, Director of Product Design & Automotive Lead frog UK
[00:09] Elizabeth Wood: Welcome to the Design Mind frogcast. Each episode, we go behind the scenes to meet the people designing what’s next in the world of products, services and experiences, both here at frog and far, far outside the pond. I’m Elizabeth Wood.
[00:24] Elizabeth Wood: Today on our show, we’re expanding on last episode’s conversation on the future of mobility. Specifically, we’re digging into the evolving world of electric vehicles. To do this, we’re joined by Melodie Hoke, Director of Product Design in frog’s London studio. As the daughter of a hairdresser and a session drummer, and with a background in fine art, creativity has always been core to her life. Now, Melodie has assembled a team at frog to research the issues facing EV usage today in an effort to design creative concepts for what a life driven by mass EV adoption could look like. Here’s Melodie now.
[01:00] Melodie Hoke: We never start assuming we know everything. We start with the curiosity and write down and clearly plan out: What do we want to know? And what do we need to find out? And why? And that’s the fundamentals of how we would plan research. So asking those questions is a really important first step. It’s kind of like an onion where you start on the outside and you get deeper and deeper into every layer. You would start with some initial questions and hypotheses, see what we can find out from first desk research— market research, intensive Google searches, basically. Then from there, we have a better idea of smarter questions to ask for want of a better word to ask things that get a little more into the detail of the space.
[01:45] Melodie Hoke: My name is Melodie Hoke, and I’m a Director of Product Design at frog. I’m based in London. And I also lead our automotive practice here in the UK at frog. My sweet spot, though, is designing new value propositions and experiences that might not even exist yet. Or taking existing experiences and reimagining them into a new form that works better for people.
[02:11] Melodie Hoke: The impact I’m hoping to have is inspiring my team to really believe that design can drive positive change. And particularly that design should drive sustainability and inclusivity. We should be designing for everyone. And we have a responsibility to do that. And also, I would hope I’m having the impact of making work fun.I think that’s something we often overlook–that work needs to be something that we enjoy, especially if we’re making something creative. If we’re miserable while we’re creating, we’re not going to create anything great. So trying to bring joy to work so that we can bring joy to customers that interact with the things we make.
[02:49] Elizabeth Wood: As lead for the automotive practice in the UK, Melodie is particularly interested in the scaling up of electric vehicles.
[02:57] Melodie Hoke: I’m really passionate about electric mobility, especially the impact it can have for driving a move towards Net Zero and sustainability overall. So can’t say any specifics, but working a lot in this space with various clients at frog. Helping to reimagine what the next step of electrification could look like, and how that might scale.
[03:20] Melodie Hoke: I recently purchased a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which I try to run as mainly an electric vehicle, running it in E mode almost all of the time, and experienced firsthand a lot of the pain with the public charging network. I live in a flat in relatively central London, so I don’t have the luxury of a driveway. And I know that not just for folks living in cities, but folks, in even some more rural areas or towns or different parts of the UK, quite a large number of people don’t have driveways and a private charging wall box. It’s just not an option for them. So through the frustration, I started thinking, There’s got to be a better way to be charging my car, and to be experiencing what it’s like to own an electric vehicle. And thought, how can we design a better experience for owning and charging an EV?
[04:20] Melodie Hoke: So, right now, purchasing a fully electric vehicle, new or used is much more costly at the beginning at least the upfront cost than purchasing a traditional ice car or even a plug in hybrid, at least for the vehicles that have a really nice long charge range. When we looked at the vehicles that we could afford that were fully electric, the range just wasn’t there for them. And so that coupled with not having instant access to a place to charge, just felt like it would be a bit too much. So I see this as a step into the world of electric mobility. And then hopefully, in the near term, the infrastructure will be there for people who don’t have private parking to go fully electric and feel confident doing it.
[05:07] Melodie Hoke: Yes, the upfront cost right now at least is greater to purchase an electric vehicle. If you look at the total cost of ownership, you do save money. And we’re expecting that by around 2027 is when electric vehicles new will reach rough price parity with combustion vehicles.
[05:26] Elizabeth Wood: To meet Net Zero targets, the UK is taking measures to end the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. But there are some challenges on the road toward mass EV adoption.
[05:37] Melodie Hoke: The team at frog [Disha Mittal, Lee Bollu, Rob Day and Sam Turner] and I have been thinking a lot about how we can prepare for mass adoption and scaling of electric vehicles, specifically in the UK, but across Europe as well. We’re in a really unique space as a design consultancy because we work not only with automotive OEMs, but also with the energy sector and the public sector, and with retail, and we are connected to all of these industries who all have a role to collectively play in that scale up and preparation for mass adoption of electric mobility.
[06:11] Melodie Hoke: I think adoption is sitting at around 20% of new vehicles purchased in the UK. And when you compare that to other large markets in the US where it’s sitting at well below 10% it’s doing okay, but it could be doing much better. If you look at countries like Norway, however, for example, new vehicle purchases are hitting about 60% electric. And that’s because of the investment in infrastructure and legislation to really encourage that mass adoption.
[06:40] Melodie Hoke: In the UK, specifically, we do however, have targets. We’ve got goals that by 2030, all new vehicles sold should be fully electric. And by 2035, petrol and diesel vehicles should be removed completely, which is really soon. So there’s a big, big gap that needs to be filled in the driver and passenger experience to allow for that mass adoption.
[07:07] Melodie Hoke: In the UK, only about 17% of all public charge points are outside of London, which is a big, big problem. So there’s a great disparity between location access to public charging that needs to be addressed. Also, when it comes to the reliability of that public charging network, there are some apps and services that will allow a driver to report a faulty charge point. But there’s not really a consistent way of doing that, or a consistent method of verifying that every charge point that is advertised as available is actually working and able to be used. So that’s a big problem.
[07:50] Elizabeth Wood: Overcoming the technological, economical and accessibility challenges that face EV adoption will take time and empathy. For Melodie, removing the fear, uncertainty and doubt from this process will require a focus on driver experiences.
[08:03] Melodie Hoke: So I think there’s always gonna be fear with the unknown and something that’s new. If you think about it, we’ve done this before. So if you look back to about 120 years ago, the main way of transporting from A to B would have been by a horse and buggy or a steam-powered train. And then the mass production of the automobile came and changed everything in the space of about 20 years. So this change has begun towards adapting that personal automotive model towards one that’s a little bit more sustainable. And that’s begun decades ago.
[08:38] Melodie Hoke: People need to be supported and encouraged to adapt to EVs, not forced. And we have a responsibility to ease their worries, by creating a really fantastic experience that makes it preferable to them to drive an electric vehicle than it does an ICE vehicle. Automotive OEMs are making the electric vehicles. The products that they’re creating are becoming better and better all the time.
[09:06] Melodie Hoke: In order to really ease that mass adoption and win–become a leader in electric mobility–they need to be creating much easier experiences. Especially if you think about your classic adoption curve that we talk about all the time with the early majority and the late majority. So a really big chunk of people who maybe aren’t on the cutting edge of technological innovation, a little bit more conservative in their willingness to try new things and change their habits. Once those people start to drive electric vehicles, automotive companies have a responsibility to create really seamless, easy experiences that make that transition just completely effortless for them. All of that, that’s something automotive companies should be thinking about.
[09:54] Melodie Hoke: Energy companies should be thinking about how to transition their business away from fossil fuels, and to support the greener infrastructure powering electric mobility in the future. So if you think about a large gas or petrol company who will have a network of stations all across the country, how could they repurpose some of that space? Or reimagine it to allow for people charging their vehicles? And create ways of entertaining people, pr helping them stay productive in their lives while they wait for their vehicles to charge? So opportunities for new models there. The same would apply for big retail companies. And there’s examples of this already with Starbucks and McDonald’s in the U.S. installing charging infrastructure at their retail locations because they have the space, they have a captive audience, there’s an opportunity to make money from it. It makes sense. I think we need to see more of that and start connecting industries together to make that happen.
[10:47] Melodie Hoke: Right now there’s a bit of a disjointedness between the many different steps and phases that are involved in electric ownership. Companies need to be thinking about how they can smooth out those lines to create one really beautifully simple end-to-end experience.
[11:06] Elizabeth Wood: We’re going to take a short break. When we return, Melodie will share more about how her team at frog is exploring concepts that support EV adoption and enable seamless eMobility experiences.
[11:19] Sean Rhodes: Hi, I’m Sean Rhodes, Executive Design Director in frog North America. The future of mobility is not just about robot drivers. It’s putting customers in the driver’s seat and being shaped one launch at a time. In a new frog report, we dig into the conversation around connected mobility, experimental vehicle design, electric vehicles, autonomy paradigms and the new businesses that the mobility era will enable. Check today’s show notes for a link to download ‘The Road Ahead.‘ Find out how a laser focus on customer experience is driving our world into the future.
[11:55] Elizabeth Wood: Now back to Melodie Hoke, Director of Product Design for frog UK. She and her team have been researching and imagining new concepts to ease mass EV adoption. Here’s a look at the challenges to be overcome and the five speculative concepts that have emerged from this work.
[12:10] Melodie Hoke: We put a small team together of frogs and looked across the market, looked across our past research from projects we had done, did some of our own research and tried to pin down: What are those gaps that we see in the current experience of owning and driving an EV when it comes to specifically charging outside of the home? And what are those opportunities that we could try to address, and work with our clients to solve, so that we can enable this tipping point to happen? One of the biggest pain points that we noticed is this idea of we call ‘app fatigue,’ or a lack of interoperability between different charging infrastructures and networks.
[12:52] Melodie Hoke: Another big area that needs to be addressed is the overall cost of living, energy availability, and what that means for people who need to charge their vehicles and do so economically. So in order to enable mass adoption, driving an EV needs to be affordable, which actually connects nicely with this other area of opportunity, this other problem space, which is going beyond merely electrification and actually working towards Net Zero. So the energy that is powering a vehicle right now is not necessarily green energy, it could be coming from fossil fuels. But what we need to support is a transition in thinking in a more circular way so that we’re powering EVs in the future from renewable energy.
[13:45] Melodie Hoke: Another area that needs to be addressed, a big problem, is educating new EV owners. Especially if you think about owning an EV for the first time, and when we look at once the mass market starts to drive electric, there’s going to be an education gap that will need to be filled. And people need to be supported in order to feel confident and have trust that they’re going to be able to charge their car, get to where they need to get to anxiety-free, be able to do so economically and efficiently, and without any pain or inconvenience. So that education gap needs to be addressed.
[14:25] Melodie Hoke: Then, looking at accessibility. So that relates closely to access in terms of geography, but we also need to think about accessibility to charging more broadly in terms of how do we create a charging network that is inclusive of the unique needs of different kinds of drivers, different abilities, locations, cognitive models? How do we ensure that it’s accessible?
[14:53] Elizabeth Wood: The five concepts Melodie and her team explore go far beyond the automotive industry, finding ties in energy and utilities, the public sector and retail among others. The first concept centers on access to eMobility charging points.
[15:06] Melodie Hoke: For local authorities to make it easier for them to use AI to model, we created this concept called DualGrid. So, for starters, we were observing this real lack of data and analysis that exists in local authorities and their ability to plan charging networks. So a lot of the public charging infrastructure, at least in the UK, rests with local authorities. About 45% of councils in the UK found that a lack of data and a strategic direction were a real barrier in delivering that charging infrastructure. So we thought, okay, we know that. And we know that by 2030, the charging infrastructure is going to have to expand by 10 times. So there’s got to be a way of solving that data gap. So we thought, what if, as an idea, we could use AI to make modeling and planning, charging infrastructure much easier and more efficient for local authorities? So could we pull together data across traffic cameras to know where electric vehicles are parked? Could we look at purchase orders? Could we use planning permissions and requests from different sources to identify for local authorities, where are the best spots to position charging and then actually help automate their application process for grants to make it much easier to roll out that scale? That’s what we were thinking about. Could be a digital twin and would boost efficiency and accuracy.
[16:40] Elizabeth Wood: The second concept explores the role that the retail industry has to play in EV adoption.
[16:46] Melodie Hoke: For retailers and energy providers who have a public infrastructure, we created a concept called Tricity. We were thinking about how petrol stations or gas stations and retail today could transform around what the future is going to look like in the next five to 10 years. People are going to have time, at least in the immediate future, while they’re charging their vehicles. And so there’s this real opportunity for retailers to take advantage of that time that people are gonna have. So the average wait time for a 100-mile charge on an EV right now is about half an hour. So that’s 30 minutes where you have a captive audience. What are you going to do about it? How could you take full advantage of that as a retailer and create an experience that will incentivize consumers to charge their vehicle and visit your retailer? So what if we created some kind of a loyalty program that actually rewarded EV charging and was connected to retailers or even local businesses? So could this be rolled out for small and medium-sized enterprises? You could be a member, you could pre book for your charging points. And you could benefit even from door-to-door service in your vehicle. So there could be models that flex for waiting in your vehicle, which is a much preferred behavior in the US. Interestingly, for charging people tend to stay in their cars and do something. Versus in the UK and around Europe, where we like to get out of our vehicles, walk around do something. How can we design models around that?
[18:21] Elizabeth Wood: Concept 3 aims to fight app fatigue common with software-based services, instead emphasizing the need for physical products.
[18:30] Melodie Hoke: For app-free charging on any network, with a single monthly subscription, we created a concept and we called it Pebble. It’s a physical smart object that looks like a pebble and sits in your vehicle.
[18:45] Melodie Hoke: Talking about this interoperability and app fatigue, so we were thinking, is there a way we could remove the need for an app completely? Wouldn’t that be really convenient? You don’t need an app to fill up your vehicle with gas right now. You just fill it up at the tank, you pay and you go. What if there was a way to make that even simpler? And you have a subscription baked into your vehicle, maybe there’s some kind of a smart object that enables this, like a smart cable or a smart plug port, so all you have to do is just plug in your vehicle and walk away. And you’ve pre paid a monthly rate as a subscription for your entire month of charge. You don’t have to worry about it. You don’t have to fill out any forms. And this kind of a plug-and-go model is accepted at multiple charging networks across the country. It would make everything so much easier and really effortless for especially that early and late majority when they’re learning how to drive an EV.
[19:45] Elizabeth Wood: Concept 4 imagines new financial models for EV adoption.
[19:51] Melodie Hoke: An all encompassing car-as-a-subscription model concept we call LocoMoto. The other thing we were thinking about as a team was how do we avoid confusing first-time owners? So if we’re going to scale EV adoption rapidly by 2030 and beyond, that means 8 million new EVs expected on the road in the UK by 2030. And we’ve already seen just in the last year, a 38% increase from 2021 to 2022. An EV owners in the UK. We thought okay, what would make it much easier for people to start adapting their lifestyle in this way, maybe before committing fully. So we thought about the car-as-a-service model as a way of allowing people to try before they buy, build confidence, and also bake in all of those extras that come with car ownership to make it much easier for them. That plus the car as a service model has a projected global value of $225 billion. So there’s a really ripe opportunity here. We thought about: what if we could create a car as a service model that is even white labeled for OEMs so it’s really easy to adapt in different business models? And that could include for customers, not only your car payment at a monthly rate, but your fuel cost. So you could have access for a single fee, access to multiple charging networks across the country, or even the world. It could also come with roadside assistance, extra support, servicing, care of your vehicle, everything all in one monthly payment, and then have the ability to try electric vehicle ownership before you fully take the plunge.
[21:36] Elizabeth Wood: The fifth and final concept Melodie and her team imagined challenges conventional notions around vehicle ownership.
[21:43] Melodie Hoke: For short-term rental and fleet companies, we created a concept called ChargeUp. Thinking about ownership in new ways, and what kinds of different models might exist in the future, in addition to the car as a service, we were also thinking about short term rentals. So both in the way that short term rentals exists today. So you think of holiday car rental companies, but also short term rentals and car sharing like Zipcar. There’s growth that’s expected year on year in these industries at around 15%. Also, if you look at Gen Z, so people who might not be purchasing new cars all the time right now, but will be very soon, 43% of them at least now say that owning a car is not important at all. There’s also a projected drop in private car ownership in the US by about 80% that we’re expecting by 2030. So, if we look at those trends, we need to be thinking ahead of how we can adapt and create new models of ownership, which might look like short-term rental and ride shares. And how can we scale that for the masses. So we thought about if short-term car rental companies are expanding into electric mobility as well, which they already are, and will continue to do so. They buy up about 10% of all new car stock every year? How can we make it easier for those companies to onboard and serve their EV drivers quickly who may need to adapt to a slightly different vehicle or mental model every time? So is there some kind of a unified software that we could create, which would allow them to have a singular charging experience for all of the vehicles in their fleet?
[23:25] Elizabeth Wood: Of course, these concepts are just the tip of the iceberg in exploring what’s possible for EVs on a massive scale. To bring electric vehicles into the forefront, more people will need to be willing to fully embrace EV adoption, and companies will need to truly focus on the lifestyles eMobility will enable.
[23:43] Melodie Hoke: Right now, early innovators and early adopters have started to drive electric vehicles and see themselves as this super exclusive, really edgy, new wave of thinkers who are embracing new technology. The next stage is going to be when people who are a little bit more uncomfortable with embracing new technology, especially for something as central to their life as their car. I mean, that’s a really important part of many people’s lives. You might have family memories in your car. You need to rely on it to see the people that you love. It’s your means of going on an adventure. There’s just so much importance that people hold onto for their cars. Encouraging adoption from people who are a bit afraid or worried by changing the car as they know it, is gonna mean we need to design fantastic experiences that will make it seem like a no-brainer to them and actually make their lives easier.
[24:47] Elizabeth Wood: For Melodie, shaping the future through design is essential to making life more meaningful. During our conversation, Melodie also shared some detail about her placement as jury president of an international design competition, and what potential applicants should be thinking about to succeed.
[25:05] Melodie Hoke: I have the absolute privilege of serving as a New Blood jury president this year for the D&AD. I’ve sat as a jury member before. And D&AD New Blood is just such a fantastic initiative that brings out and challenges the brightest and the best in up-and-coming creative talent in the UK and globally as well. So it’s a competition. There are a number of briefs, which are sponsored by real companies. So I’ll be sitting as the jury president for the Sky brief. How it works, so in this instance, Sky, or many of the other partners of the D&AD will issue a brief, which is usually intentionally quite ambitious, blue sky, broad–the best kind of brief that we designers love to really chew on. And anyone who is an up-and-coming creative can submit your response to the brief, and it will be judged. And my role as a president will be to rally the jury of my peers in the industry, review the work and spotlight and celebrate really standout up-and-coming creative talent in the design industry.
[26:17] Melodie Hoke: The idea to me is the most important thing. Be on brief, and think of something that’s really fresh and unique. That’s what is so amazing about new talent, new blood, so to speak, is this fresh, untainted perspective that people bring. So focus on the future. Come up with something big. And it should be really bold.
[26:43] Elizabeth Wood: That’s our show. The Design Mind frogcast was brought to you by frog, a leading global creative consultancy that is part of Capgemini Invent. Check today’s show notes for transcripts and more from our conversation.
[26:55] Elizabeth Wood: We really want to thank Melodie Hoke for sharing her expertise and a look at her team’s work exploring innovative concepts. For more on the future of mobility, find a link in our show notes to download frog’s new report ‘The Road Ahead.’
[27:11] Elizabeth Wood: We also want to thank you, dear listener. If you like what you heard, tell your friends. Rate and review to help others find us on Apple Podcasts and Spotify . And be sure to follow us wherever you listen to podcasts. Find lots more to think about from our global frog team at frog.co/designmind. That’s frog.co. Follow frog on Twitter at @frogdesign and @frog_design on Instagram. And if you have any thoughts about the show, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at frog.co/contact. Thanks for listening. Now go make your mark.
Melodie Hoke, Director of Product Design, Automotive Lead, frog UK
Disha Mittal, Service Designer, frog
Lee Bollu, Lead Product Designer, frog
Rob Day, Lead Product Designer, frog
Sam Turner, Product Design Director, frog