At this moment, charging your electric vehicle is common good, however smart charging is still a novelty in the developing phase with many unknowns. A smart charging system monitors, manages and restricts the charging process to optimize energy consumption. The need for, and advantages of smart charging electric vehicles are clear cut from the perspective of the government, energy suppliers and sustainability goals. But what about the advantages and disadvantages for the people who drive electric cars? What opportunities are there to support the goals of the user to make smart charging desirable for them? By means of qualitative Co-design methods the underlying motives of early adaptors for joining a smart charging service were uncovered. This was done by first sensitizing the user about their current and past encounters with smart charging to make them more aware of their everyday experiences. This was followed by another generative method, journey mapping and in-depth interviews to uncover the core values that drove them to participate in a smart charging system. Finally, during two co-design sessions, the participants formed groups in which they were challenged to design the future of smart charging guided by their core values. The three main findings are as follows.
Firstly, participants are looking for ways to make their sustainable behaviour visible and measurable for themselves. For example, the money they saved by using the smart charging system was often used as a scoreboard, more than it was about theactual money. Secondly, they were more willing to participate in smart charging and discharging (sending energy from their vehicle back to the grid) if it had a direct positive effect on someone close to them. For example, a retiree stated that he was more than willing to share the energy of his car with a neighbouring family in which both young parents work, making them unable to charge their vehicles at times when renewable energy is available in abundance. The third and last finding is interrelated with this, it is about setting the right example. The early adopters want to show people close to them that they are making an effort to do the right thing. This is known as the law of proximity and is well illustrated by a participant that bought a second-hand, first-generation Nissan Leaf with a range of just 80 km in the summer and even less in winter. It isn’t about buying the best or most convenient car but about showing the children that sometimes it takes effort to do the right thing. These results suggest that there are clear opportunities for suppliers of smart EV charging services to make it more desirable for users, with other incentives than the now commonly used method of saving money. The main takeaway is that early adopters have a desire for their sustainable behaviour to be more visible and tangible for themselves and their social environment. The results have been translated into preliminary design proposals in which the law of proximity is applied.