In his work designing products that live in public spaces, Ciocchini has always made decisions based on how people use, respond and react to the product. For this project, he had to balance making the chargers conspicuous yet barely noticeable. “The chargers have to call attention to themselves because you need to be able to find them if you are looking for them,” Ciocchini said. “But if you are out in the neighborhood walking your dog or having a nice stroll in the morning, the charger should not be yelling at you, ‘Hey, I’m here!’”
That wasn’t the only balance Ciocchini needed to consider. On one level, the chargers had to speak the same design language as the city’s benches, lampposts and trash cans. But they also had to communicate the advanced nature of FLO’s EV charger. “FLO has a 21st-century technology that they have created and patented. You don’t want to stick it in a box that belongs in the 1950s,” Ciocchini stated.
“The way the product looks and functions has to be elegant and minimal and communicate to people that it’s high-tech and here for them.” IGNACIO CIOCCHINI, industrial designer, Ciocchini Design
Achieving all the design objectives required many choices and extensive collaboration with FLO engineers and several city agencies.
Pursuing a pilot project relies upon gathering lessons and insights that apply to the future. In that regard, the pilot has been a big success. Everyone knew going in that a big challenge would be non-EVs parking in spaces designated for charging. That problem has proven true, and the DOT is working with other city agencies to address it.
They have been coordinating with the NYPD [New York Police Department], who do enforcement on the curb. When the DOT receives complaints from the community — be that from elected officials or constituents — they’re in contact with the NYPD to do some enforcement to make sure there isn’t an ongoing issue. The DOT has seen a fair number of tickets being issued indicating there is enforcement happening. They also analyze data from time-lapse cameras to see how often non-EVs block chargers.
Perhaps the most important lesson the stakeholders in the project learned is that the demand for curbside charging is significant. When the project began, Con Edison hoped the average charger use for each day would be 12%, or about three hours. Already, utilization hit 30% in the month of January, with some chargers reaching 75%. “The utilization numbers have greatly exceeded our expectations,” Rada declared.
Another lesson is that the right partnerships deliver results. Rada has worked with many pilot projects over the years, and he rates the cooperation and open communication in this project as the best he has experienced. “FLO has been incredibly responsive and worked to customize the design of the chargers, and the DOT unlocked a lot of doors to make it possible to put chargers on the curb,” Rada said.
“With these three groups working together, the amount of progress we made in a short period of time is remarkable.” ROY RADA, Manager of electric vehicle demonstration projects, Con Edison