Transparent Charging Station

Design Project

While interning at: The Incredible Machine

Project clients: Elaad and Alliander


Electric driving is the future. It’s cleaner, quieter and better for the environment. However, having cities full of electric vehicles does pose some challenges that need to be solved. One of the biggest challenges is: how do we charge all these cars? Power grids have limited capacity, which means that at a certain point it becomes impossible to charge all cars at once. The solution? Smart Charging!

In Smart Charging power grids are managed by algorithms that decide how the available electricity is being divided. For electric vehicles this means that not each vehicle will receive the same charge: some people might have priority (a doctor who is on-call for emergencies), while others might have chosen to only charge when there is a peak in available sustainable energy. All of these factors play a role in how the available electricity will be divided.

But this means that you might wake up one morning with a car that is barely charged: what happened? In order to understand how algorithms divide the electricity, transparency need to be built into the system. The Transparent Charging Station is an exploration of how this can be done. It is a charging station that can charge three cars at once. By checking in with different IDs, people can see how the priorities of the algorithm change and how it divides the available electricity. The Transparent Charging Station is a proposal of how users can be enabled to have insight into the decisions an algorithm makes and give them prove to hold the system accountable when it puts them at a disadvantage.

In 2018 the Transparent Charging Station has won a Dutch Design Award in the category "Product".

The grid on the charging station visualizes how electricity will be divided over time, while the displays underneath provide additional information.

Users can check in using different ID cards and by doing so how the charging algorithm differentiates between people.

The charging station is fully interactive, and responds to charging cables being plugged in, users checking in, and parameters being altered by the users.

Each ID card has its own properties: priority, deadline flexibility and other restrictions.