The challenge

Con Edison was preparing to install 38 curbside EV charging sites on the streets of New York City. The project would expand the availability of EV charging to better support existing and future EV owners and boost EV adoption, but it would displace on-street parking for non-EVs.

In a city already experiencing traffic and parking challenges, the utility needed a deep understanding of residents’ perceptions and needs to develop a customer-first messaging, communications, and engagement strategy for the charger launch.

The solution

To best understand how NYC residents felt about EVs, curbside chargers, and the effects of chargers in their communities, Con Edison hired E Source to conduct ethnographic research and a design-thinking workshop. E Source gathered customer perceptions and opinions about driving, parking, traffic, EVs, and curbside charging through self-filmed videos, photos, and text messages supplied by research study participants. They provided their thoughts in an open-ended fashion, leading to unique insights that can’t be gathered from other types of market research.

E Source focused on EV owners, prospective EV owners, and passionate community members, recruiting participants in communities where chargers would be installed. These customer insights revealed challenges related to parking, traffic, and EV charging that helped Con Edison understand from a deeper human-centric level because of the ethnographic research.

The results

Using ethnographic insights, Con Edison crafted an overarching campaign messaging strategy with the goals of building awareness of and receptivity to curbside chargers, boosting EV adoption, and increasing charger usage. To alleviate customers’ concerns about the curbside charging stations, the utility developed a hands-on, localized engagement strategy to educate residents and spread awareness of the benefits of having readily available charging solutions on city streets. The strategy included:

  • Early notification of host communities with signage alerting the community of the incoming charging stations
  • Education programs at each station
  • On-site EV specialists to answer questions and facilitate peer-to-peer discussions