Electric-Car Charging and the Dilemma of Idle Time

Electric-Car Charging and the Dilemma of Idle Time
Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 20 august 2009

Interesting thought piece over at The Big Money examining the subtle shift that will take place in our habits as we make the transition from gas-fueled vehicles to electric cars. New infrastructure, in the form of “fast-charging” stations, will be needed to meet the growing consumer demand. While the average “fast-charge” may eventually take as little as 15 minutes, that’s still 10 more minutes than the average conventional trip to the gas station. Which is to say, that gap translates into a lot more idle time on our hands. How will our culture of immediacy learn to cope with this interminable lag?

We may not have to, if some enterprising business comes to our aid by tapping into this captive, albeit fleeting, audience with some product or service, while simultaneously providing us with the illusion of efficient, multitasking. The only problem may be logistics. For one, the time constraint is an odd one, given that turnover has to remain consistent at the “pumps”. At the same time, we need to factor in concerns about space –  after all, sprawling swathes of electric chargers are hardly the an attractive solution. Which makes for a rather complicated equation.

The Big Money explains the dilemma:

[W]hat kind of important service would you offer that could take anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour or more, depending on demand? This would be a new “third space”—not home and not work—that would be weirdly time-constrained: keeping you around a bit longer than ducking into Starbucks, but not as long as you might spend shopping at Wal-Mart, Target, Costco etc. It’s important to remember that people don’t actually have to go to that many places anymore, since Internet has eliminated visits to the bank, the library, government offices, and in many cases retail establishments.

McDonald’s is already positioning themselves to pick up that slack when they recently announced that they’d be offering car-charging at one (and potentially more if the formula is a success) of their restaurants, but surely their is some endeavor or activity more worthwhile than a shopping trip or fast food extra value meal. Micro-volunteering or exercise, perhaps?

We’d appreciate your thoughts and suggestions on this.

The Big Money: Electric Car Charge Stations: The Next Third Space?

[image via Pam & Frank on Flickr]


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