Kilowatt Academy: Exploring the Electric Vehicle Adoption Curve

Tdrews
FordLabs
Published in
6 min readOct 18, 2023

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Kilowatt Academy was formed to understand the needs of early electric vehicle adopters and unblock those drivers from making the switch from internal combustion engines (ICE) to battery electric vehicles (EV).

OUR CHALLENGE

How might we unblock drivers from purchasing an electric vehicle?

The Kilowatt Academy team worked for eight months to uncover what might be holding some consumers back from purchasing electric vehicles. Using lean experimentation and research like user interviews, social media ad measurements, and more, we learned more about potential EV purchasing personas.

THREE EXPERIMENTS

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, road trips, charging, battery fears etc. Our users also expressed a desire to hear about the EV experience from “real people.”

This led us to Our first experiment, 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.

As a result, 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 three 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 connect with an EV owner over text or email.

Using Slack channels to collect user info and questions, we waited for people to sign up for each of the three 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 signups was even slower. With UserZoom we conducted a round of validation testing to understand why there was such little interest in signing up and to see what we could change — if anything — to get users more interested.

What we learned

1. 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.

2. To avoid distrust in a salesy OEM or dealership site, users said that our white-label brand “Kilowatt Academy” also felt untrustworthy.

3. 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?

With lessons learned, we decided to pivot away from the EV owner-connecting platform. 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 or EV, our coworkers committed to completing a seven-day driving log. Every day, they tracked 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, then submitted it to our team.

After a week of tracking their driving, our team analyzed the driving data. 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 five years — courtesy of the Edmunds TCO calculator.

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.

What we learned

1. 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.

2. Between the entry survey and exit survey, we rated the likelihood to purchase an ICE, hybrid, and EV on 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.

3. After the exit surveys were completed, we followed up with seven of our users to understand their reactions to their personalized reports. Users shared feelings of enlightenment, appreciation for the digestible personalized 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 learned that 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 had a lot of questions, as well as fears and concerns around the battery having seen news of batteries exploding or catching on fire. So, we learned that the unknowns of batteries are closely related to general range anxiety.

Nearing the end of our engagement, the team decided to simply prototype an idea. In a month, we tested and iterated on two designs with 10 users to help them understand how outside temperature, heating/cooling functions and weekly mileage impact the battery levels of the car.

What we learned

  1. Users don’t know much about what impacts the life of an EV battery
  2. Having a resource that shows how the environment impacts battery life is important to potential buyers

WHAT’S NEXT?

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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