Changing Habits to Reach Full Charger Capacity


Three years ago, after I acquired my first plug-in hybrid, we installed a car charger at our office.

Since that time, I have also bought an EV, and we have had EV visitors where occasionally both chargers have been in use. A few weeks ago, David acquired a plug-in hybrid Jeep Grand Cherokee and now we are running full occupancy on our charger set-up. Undoubtedly, other M&O personnel will bring in more EV’s and that means more car chargers.

David is still in his first few weeks of plugging in, and he made an interesting observation. He said: “You know, I don’t think I would be plugging my car in if the charger cable were not between me and the door to the house.”

That may seem lazy or disinterested, but it is not, it actually makes an important point. The switch to an EV requires changes in habits. If one has been getting out of the car and walking directly into the house for decades, it is difficult to change that habit without a proper reminder or prompt. If the charger cable were not right there, David would not be reminded to plug in the cable and because of that will just end up driving his car in gas hybrid mode. As such, reducing carbon is not really the effort; it is the need to change a habit. Well designed charger set-ups are a big part of that, and clearly we are still in the Version 1 design phase.

Note how my van, and David’s Jeep are parked. I am backed in, which is something we like to do from a safety point of view and the cable is reasonably convenient for me. Meanwhile David parked head-in which makes it very convenient for him to plug in but goes counter to our safety policy. If David were to back in, he would have to drag the cable all the way around his car and in that case he cannot be blamed for forgetting or even avoiding to plug in.

Another problem with the charger is that there is only one cable coiling hook on the dual charger. This inevitably results in tangled cables and further frustrations. In the next few weeks, I plan to install an additional cable hook on the post so David and I don’t tangle. We are not really aggressive about coiling the cables on the hook, but since there is grass at the base, the landscapers end up making a nice cable tangle when they put the cables on the hook to cut the grass. This leads to another design note. No grass at the base of the charger.

As such, we bought a “top of the line” dual charger three years ago and today, after Beta testing, it is clear that it is not optimally functional and it is time for Version 2.

This interaction between design and user experience is actually what we are dealing with on micro and macro scales in achieving sustainability. We need to change habits and we will become smarter at designing for those changes in habits by doing and testing.

Meanwhile, solving the problem at the individual level is easy:

No matter where you live, stop buying internal combustion equipment. Buy electric and you will be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.