Kilowatt Academy

Exploring the Electric Vehicle Adoption Curve

Kilowatt Academy was formed to understand the needs of the “early majority” electric vehicle adopters and unblock those drivers from making the switch from internal combustion engine to battery electric vehicle.

  • Social Media Marketing
  • Diary Studies
  • Experimentation
The Ford Client
Battery Electric Vehicle Strategy
Our Team
  • 1 Product Manager
  • 2 Product Designers
  • 2 Software Engineers
Our Duration
8 Months

Our Challenge

How might we unblock drivers from purchasing an electric vehicle in the next 36 months?

The Kilowatt Academy team worked for 8 months to uncover what it is that might be holding some consumers back from purchasing an electric vehicle. Using lean experimentation, research like user interviews, social media ad measurements, and more, we learned more about the potential EV purchasing persona.

Our Journey

Connect with owner

Connect with an Owner

Our first experiment was a platform for EV-curious researchers to connect with real electric vehicle owners and be able to ask questions. Using social media marketing and user research, we learned that users wanted to do the research on their own time and didn’t trust the unknown branding.

Daily driving log

Daily Driving Log

The team pivoted and did a diary study with other Ford employees. Users filled out a daily driving log based on their own driving, and were given a report after a week of driving. The report shared what their cost and time savings would be if they were driving in an ICE compact SUV and BEV SUV versus their own vehicle.

Interactive battery

Interactive Battery

After one last pivot and a deeper dive into a more niche EV subject - batteries - we tested how users interact with range information with a different kind of visual. We learned especially that when numbers are used, they need to be as simple and self explanatory as possible.

Connect with an owner

A platform for EV-curious researchers to meet EV owners

After initial discovery and framing, our team learned that people who are interested in buying electric vehicles (EVs) have different barriers keeping them from making the purchase -- sticker cost, roadtrips, charging, battery fears etc. Our users also expressed a desire to hear about the EV experience from “real people.”

We created and marketed a platform - Kilowatt Academy - for EV researchers to connect with EV owners for a sales-free place to ask questions about EVs. Using an “A/B test” -- A/B/C in our case -- we sent users equally to 3 different experiences. One was to sign up for a webinar and live chat with an EV owner, another to connect via zoom, and the last to be connected with an EV owner over text or email. Users could

Be an EV Guide

Each site had a space for their email address and a question they would ask in their session with an EV owner. In addition to gathering sign ups, we were also hoping to collect the top-of-mind questions users were thinking about.

Using slack channels to collect user info and questions, we awaited sign ups for each of the 3 experiences. As we tracked our social media ads and site analytics, we were disappointed to find a drop off in landing to sign up conversion.

Traffic from our social media ads to the site was slow, and conversions for sign ups was even slower. With UserZoom we conducted a round of validation testing to understand why there was such little interest in signing up, and try to see what we could change - if anything - to get users more interested.

Findings

Research on my terms

Users expressed a desire to do the research on their own time in a less-structured manner. They don’t want to wait around for a webinar, Zoom session, or for the owner to email them back.

Untrustworthy White Label Brand

In an effort to avoid the distrust in a salesy OEM or dealership site, users said that our white label brand “Kilowatt Academy” also felt untrustworthy.

Personal Connection Limits

While users expressed an interest in the personal connection aspect of the platform, they said they would rather it be more like a Reddit forum and less intimate like video chat or text.

Daily Driving Log

How impactful is personalized driving data?

Nearing the end of experiment 1, we decided to pivot away completely from the EV owner-connecting platform. With lessons learned, we started to investigate personalized driving data, an idea our PO and the team felt excited about. Given the distrust in the OEMs and a white label brand, we reached out to our fellow Ford employees to be our guinea pigs.

After taking an entry survey about their likelihood to purchase an ICE, hybrid and EV, our coworkers signed on to commit to seven days of filling out a driving log. Every day, they would track how far they drove - whether it was on the highway or in the city - how much they paid for gas when they stopped, and the general places they were driving to, and submit it to our team.

Vehicle comparison, 5 year Cost of ownership

After a week of tracking their driving, our team managed the data and calculations of each individual’s driving. Our users were given a highly personalized report that reflected the driving they did in their own vehicle compared to how it would have been in a compact SUV and an electric SUV. We shared data points like cost per mile, monthly gas costs, frequency of filling vs charging and total cost of ownership over 5 years courtesy of the Edmunds TCO calculator.

Using slack channels to collect user info and questions, we awaited sign ups for each of the 3 experiences. As we tracked our social media ads and site analytics, we were disappointed to find a drop off in landing to sign up conversion.

Our users then filled out a final survey to gauge how their interest and data points changed throughout the course of the study. We also interviewed a handful of our participants who shared positive reflections and really enjoyed the report they received.

25

Completed Week-Long Study

With 39 initial signups and after some expected drop-offs, we finished the study with 25 users filling out a daily driving log and completing the exit survey.

56%

Increased Likelihood

Between the entry survey and exit survey, we rated likelihood to purchase an ICE, hybrid, and EV and a scale of 1-5, 5 being very likely. 56% of our users indicated a 1 point or more shift away from ICE and/or towards EVs.

7

Follow ups

After the exit surveys were all completed, we followed up with 7 of our users to understand their reactions to their personalized report. Users shared feelings of enlightenment, appreciation for the digestible personlized data, and excitement for the potential of purchasing an EV.

Interactive Battery

What else is blocking folks from purchasing an EV?

After the success of our personalized driving data experiment, we considered building upon it and going deeper. Since we had a strong lesson learned -- personalized driving data moves the needle towards EV purchase likelihood -- we decided to pivot and crack a different EV nut. With the idea of “low hanging fruit” or small EV-related topics we could address for EV researchers to unblock them from purchasing, we landed on EV batteries.

After much research, brainstorming, and more user interviews, the team felt excited about helping people understand electric vehicle batteries. Given that the battery is the main aspect of the car that differentiates it from an internal combustion engine, it’s an important topic to be understood. Users shared a lot of questions with us, as well as fears and concerns around the battery. Some of them had seen news of batteries exploding or catching on fire, and we gathered that the unknowns of batteries closesly relates to general range anxiety.

Battery Factors

Nearing the end of our engagement, the team decided to simply prototype the idea out rather than being a whole product development cycle. In a month, we tested and iterated on 2 designs with 10 different users. We focused specifically on the impact of the outside temperature and heating/cooling functions on the battery levels of the car as well as weekly mileage.

As an MVP, this was just one small part of that battery that we wanted to help users understand. Users expressed an interest in the topic, and many shared they didn’t know anything at all about batteries or the affects of the weather on the battery.

Next Steps

What happens next for this team and the research we’ve done?

As this FordLabs engagement has come to an end, we want to share about our learnings. After 8 months of research in the lucrative field of electric vehicles, we want to be available to help other teams at Ford and share our learnings and research findings. As EVs grow in popularity, FordLabs is entering into more engagements surrounding electric vehicles. Our research and experiments will help shape the ways we work on these products in the coming months.

Please reach out to our team if you’re curious about the work we did, or just want to talk about EVs! After working so deeply immersed in electric vehicles, our team loves to chat about them and all that we’ve learned.

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