3 min read

What a Road Trip by EV Taught Me About Digital Transformation

What a Road Trip by EV Taught Me About Digital Transformation

This July, my wife and I attended a wedding in rural Sweden. Instead of the direct route from Stockholm to the venue, we decided to turn this into a week-long road trip covering almost 3000 km, by EV! From Stockholm to Åre, through to Kristiansund and down the coast past Ålesund, Bremanger, Bergen, to Oslo, and finally back to Sweden. So, what did I learn – other than that my wife and I love each other enough to do 8-hour days in the car?

First, transformation might be necessary, but do not underestimate the power of familiarity. I have been driving an X series BMW for the last five years, so moving to a BMW iX3 was straightforward. The vehicle looks pretty much the same as the petrol version, yet has unbelievable torque and responsiveness. In any successful transformation, you want to make people feel that the future has arrived – and ensure they can see themselves in it.

Second, it made me appreciate the transformation tipping point. When is a solution good enough to unequivocally meet people's needs? In the case of electric vehicles, it was clear that from a range perspective we are not quite there yet. Getting anywhere between 300 and 400km of range is reasonable, but it still meant one or two charging breaks a day. Once battery capacity doubles, it will likely shift the market dynamics overnight.

A bit of a missed opportunity: few petrol stations had EV chargers. Photo by me.

Third, as with any transformation program, estimates are critical when you are in the driver's seat. Doing the back-of-the-envelope route calculations to figure out which ferry to take was still necessary, but I can only imagine what a headache it would have been if the range algorithm had been less conservative or accurate. You might not immediately think about estimation functions when driving, but the BMW engineers deserve kudos.

Fourth, given charging stops are pretty non-negotiable, I was surprised by the inconsistency of retail experiences. As charging an electric vehicle could easily take an hour, this provides a captive audience. An audience that could well be in the mood for some retail therapy after a frustrating 30 minute battle with their charging app. I predict we will see elevated "charging destinations" beyond the traditional forecourt fast food outlet.

Fifth, on the topic of apps, many of them had a poor UI. From creating an account, to setting up a payment method, and starting or finishing charging – there is work to be done. Given these apps are effectively the membership portals to (competitive) charging infrastructure, you would think that brands would major on the experience here. Sadly, like in many transformations, design seems an afterthought, not helped by buggy physical chargers.

"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads." Photo by me.

Sixth, branded app experiences can be detrimental to the customer journey. We ended up with eight payment apps for different chargers, as less than half the chargers accepted credit cards. Rather annoying. Ironically, it was on final day that someone suggested Elton – which allows you to charge at multiple providers with one payment profile. The lesson here: think about the ecosystem you are creating during a transformation.

Finally, even the most starry-eyed and innocent customers become snobs in no time! While the first few occasions of charging the car (electrons, wow!!) filled me with wonder, by the time we were halfway down the Atlantic coast I had learn to disdain the more humble charging stations. Shout out to Alpitronic for their 300KW hyperchargers. You have ruined all other chargers for me. And to think I once believed 75KW was special.

All in all, this road trip was both an enjoyable and instructive experience. While perhaps a concerning sign of my inability to disconnect from work (ha!) it was interesting immersing oneself into a different technology ecosystem for a week, and having the opportunity to look at this with a pair of fresh eyes. A timely reminder that it is only all too easy to get caught up in the day to day, forgetting that transformation needs to be intuitive to succeed.

– Ryan