Thinking about the User

A project log for Power Pack: Diversifying the Automobile

Powering the future is about diversifying our energy sources, including the vehicles that power or lives.

james-neeJames Nee 04/22/2016 at 01:300 Comments

Design of the battery enclosure continues, but I wanted to take some time to think about the end user. Am I working on something that only I would find useful, valuable or interesting? If that is the case, it wouldn't be the end of the world but I do want this project to reach an audience greater than one.

So I decided to think outside myself, and envision what other situations there would be that the Power Pack platform would be useful. Granted whatever I came up with is not backed up by extensive user research or surveys, but I like to think that the use cases are reasonable, and describe a large portion of car owners and operators in the US.

The following are three completely fictional accounts of what I imagine are a few archetypal users of this product.

Jon - young urban professional

Jon lives in an apartment in Santa Monica, and would love to drive an electric car, and while his commute is only 40 miles a day, he cannot charge his car at night. That and the fact that his office has no electric vehicle charging yet, it’s logistically difficult to drive electric. He does live near several hydrogen refueling stations and it is convenient for him to refuel there. Instead of buying a dedicated hydrogen vehicle, however, he likes the modular aspect so that if he decides to move to a place where hydrogen refueling is not convenient, he can switch to battery electric, or gasoline if necessary, and it is relatively easy to sell his hydrogen module.

Sandra - rural pragmatic traveler

Sandra lives in the northern reaches of Montana and she has both a biodiesel and gasoline option which allows her to travel for hundreds of miles without refueling, as well as utilize used vegetable oil to power her vehicle, which she gets from local diners and bars that she frequently rolls through. What makes the Power Pack module appealing to her is that it’s easy to perform maintenance on the system without needing to go to a mechanic, and if a problem is really severe, it’s just a matter of ordering another engine module instead of buying a whole new vehicle. The electric motor also has some handling advantages. With the instant torque, moving off road up steep grades is much easier. Without a supercapacitor bank Sandra can’t really maintain a high acceleration, but for now this what she has is sufficient.

Arthur - performance driven amateur racer

Arthur is a gearhead living in modern times. He is part of the National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and wants to race electric. At the moment there are no standard class where he can race electric, so he has converted his ‘vintage Porsche 911 to have a fully electric drivetrain. What’s great about the Power Pack system is that he can race all weekend without needing to worry about recharging or downtime. He keeps a several spare modules fully charged at all times, and quickly swaps them out between races. Additionally, since he does like using his Porsche for scenic drives, he has two different battery chemistries - one that cannot deliver as much power, but has more energy so it can go for longer drives. When racing range is not as much of an issue, but when he darts in and out of corners being able to source a lot of power from the modules is key.