Helen Hamlyn Design Award
WeCharge was one of the graduate projects I did when I studied in the MA Design Products program at the Royal College of Art. It is an electricity-charging solution designed to improve our environment and future. It had won the Helen Hamlyn Design Award and the SustainRCA Award in 2015.
I designed the prototype of the product, software and hardware alike. I also made a showcase video with a filming team.
Software - WeCharge App
I was in charge of conceptual ideas, the information architecture, the wireframe, and the interface and prototype building.
Hardware - WeCharge Socket
I came up with the concept, drew the sketches, and designed the 3D CAD models. I then made a testing model with a prototyping team.
I wrote the script and played a role in the video;)
The Challenge & Approach
Taiwan has the highest density of scooters in the world, due to its warm weather, island terrain and culture habits. However, after each use, specific pollutants and fine particles are released into the air. To commute conveniently while protecting the environment, use an electric scooter is by far the best option, thanks to their efficiency and low pollution release.
Taiwan has already been developing electric scooters for more than 20 years, but mainly because of the inconvenience of charging, the use of electric scooters only accounts for less than 1% of all scooters in the country.
Unlike petrol scooters, there is not the established infrastructure for convenient refueling. This problem is exacerbated by electric-scooter manufactures producing exclusive re-fuelling methods that are not universal between brands.
Therefore, different from existing various battery charging or exchanging systems that rely on traditional forms of infrastructure that are expensive and cumbersome to be spread widely, WeCharge is a new system for refueling that is inexpensive, universal and adapts to the complexities of a highly developed city.
The following graphics and charts show how serious the pollution is at present, why people prefer petrol scooters to electric ones, and why there is no satisfactory solution yet to this problem.
Actually not only a solution but also a business model
Utilising the high number of parking spaces that already exist outside shops in Taiwan as charging locations, WeCharge delivers electricity directly from existing shops using a weatherproof smart socket, enabling riders to charge while they park. Electric scooter riders can find and activate an available WeCharge device using an app on their phone. No matter which brand or model, all scooters can be charged by WeCharge. WeCharge partner shops can earn money from providing electricity for charging and from WeCharge incentives that they can customize themselves. Electric scooter riders could even earn a free charge from special in-store offers.
Moreover, the WeCharge system is adaptable to many different types of parking area, such as indoor and outdoor parking squares; anywhere with an electricity supply. This new business model, allows individuals and business owners to provide a necessary solution to the growing pollution issues and electric transport opportunities in Taiwan; making the refueling of electric scooters widely and conveniently available to help save the environment.
About The Software
The WeCharge app is for users to locate and activate an available WeCharge socket for any electric device running out of power. The users can use this app to activate a socket by scanning the QR code on it and monitor the charging status anytime anywhere.
When a user wishes to stop charging, he or she simply removes the plug or presses the stop button in the app, and the app will automatically transact the payment by the user's WeCharge credit account to the electricity provider.
WeCharge App Version 1
Scanning function will show up right after launching the app.
By scanning the socket QR code, the socket provider, charging fee, and incentives will appear on the app.
During charging, the app will register the ongoing charging time and the cost.
WeCharge App Version 2
Why a new version
In discussing the V1 app with a software engineer, we found out that the automatic camera activation right after the app is launched may prolong the loading time and waste electricity for a user who simply wants to use the app to locate a WeCharge socket. Therefore, in the V2 app, the scanner needs to be activated by a button.
In addition, the location-based advertising (LBS) has been introduced to make the business model even more complete and profitable.
New Design features
A clear call-to-action (CTA) button in the home page to activate the scanning function. It allows the users to access their credits, and, by a button, to find a WeCharge socket nearby.
Since the WeCharge system knows where and when a user is using a WeCharge socket, it provides an effective and attractive platform for location-based advertising that is highly customized and tailored to consumers at a specific location.
About The Hardware
WeCharge Socket Version 1
I sketched the weatherproof smart socket for potential electricity providers to install at any possible location, and for electric scooter riders to use easily.
The finalized design contains two parts, a retractable part attached to a steel wire fixed beneath the ceiling, and a socket part hanging beneath the retractable part. To use it, unhook the socket part and hang it on the handle of a scooter, and plug in the scooter.
3D CAD models are constructed based on my designs and sketches to make ready testing prototypes.
A prototyping company has joined force with me to make a WeCharge hardware prototype.
WeCharge Socket Version 2
Why a new version
According to on-site testing and the feedbacks from shop owners, the V1 hardware is as good as expected. Yet, I have designed a simpler and cheaper version for people to have more options.
The hardware is designed to be easy to mount on the wall, with the weatherproof and user-friendly features to be introduced afterwards.
3D CAD models are constructed based on the new designs and sketches to make ready testing V2 prototypes.
I again partnered with a prototyping company to make a WeCharge V2 hardware prototype.
WeCharge Socket Version 2
Software and Hardware
The following video shows how users can use a WeCharge app and socket.