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Published on December 14, 2016

Stuck in the slow lane of the I-405, Howard Frey looks outside the window and sees cars zip by in the HOV lane. Sitting comfortably in his Lexus RX330, he thinks yet again about purchasing an electric car. Not only would it be environmentally friendly, but as a single occupant he’ll also be able to take advantage of the Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the DMV and will finally be able to use the HOV lane. On top of that, he’ll get to park in the coveted EV parking spots at work.

A resident of Newport Beach, California, Howard is a mid-level manager with a tech startup in the area. He is married and has two kids. Apart from the Lexus, he and his wife also own a Honda Pilot, which is great for hauling kids around town. Being gas guzzlers, both his cars are not environment- or pocket-friendly. So Howard is looking for a replacement, something that will ease his long commute to work by enabling him to use the HOV lane and the EV parking spots at work.

Both, he and his wife hit a blank when they decided to shortlist an electric car. They could only come up with the super expensive Tesla or the subcompact Nissan, neither of these vehicles fit their needs. Being new to the electric car world, the Freys didn’t know where to begin their search. His wife, Hannah suggests that they visit their local green energy NGO to see if they could help them out.

Stepping into the office of Greenergy, the local green energy NGO, they are greeted by Leah, a volunteer. Howard explains to her that he is looking for an electric vehicle, anything apart from Tesla and Nissan. He also tells her that

  • The range of the vehicle between charges is essential but since there are charging points at his workplace, the vehicle should be capable of going at least 60 miles on one charge
  • The time taken to charge should not exceed seven hours as that’s how long a normal workday lasts
  • He would like to know about the annual savings and savings over five years in fuel costs

Leah then proceeds to show the Freys a data visualization created using Arcadia Instant, a free downloadable visual analytics tool. She gives him a walkthrough of the app, called Electric Vehicles which contains five visuals:

A donut chart depicts the drive type, a scatter chart shows the Miles per Gallon-equivalent (MPGe) of the vehicles, a packed bubble chart represents the driving range, a bar and line chart shows the annual fuel cost and the amount saved over 5 years, and finally radial charts compare battery and power among the different vehicles.

Along with the visuals, the app also contains three filters — Car Model, Charge Mode, and Drive Range.

Since Howard wants to look at and play around with the visualization from the comfort of his home, Leah creates a new user account for him.  

She then assigns him a new role which gives him view-only access to the app.

This will allow Howard to play around with the app without making any permanent changes in the charts. After the quick overview, Howard decides to go home and look at the app so that he can shortlist the top three electric cars.  

Being an exceptional planner, Howard first makes a plan on how he wants to shortlist vehicles. He wants to shortlist rear wheel and then front wheel drive vehicles. Despite the popularity of All-wheel drive vehicles, he decides to skip them as their range is less compared to the other two. After that, he wants to compare these shortlisted cars by test driving them at their respective dealers.

He first clicks on 2-Wheel Drive, Rear in the donut chart. Now all the other charts refresh to show data pertaining to rear wheel drive vehicles.

The X Axis has the car models and the Y-axis shows the miles-per-gallon equivalent for each car; the size of the bubble indicates the time it takes to fully charge the car. From these, he shortlists the BMW i3 as it has the highest range compared to the other vehicles. Then he clicks on 2-Wheel Drive, Front in the donut chart.

Since he is not particularly interested in the Nissan, Howard shortlists the Spark EV and the e-Golf. From the Multi-select filter Car Model, he then selects the BMW i3, Chevrolet Spark EV, and VW e-Golf. The charts now refresh and show data for these three vehicles.

He first looks at the scatter chart, which shows the Miles per Gallon-equivalent (MPGe).

From the scatter chart it is clear that the BMW i3 has the highest MPGe followed by the Spark EV and the e-Golf. Howard then wants to compare the actual driving range, the annual fuel cost and the amount that an EV will save him over five years. He looks at the packed bubble chart as well as the bar and line chart and finds out that all the values for the selected vehicles are near identical.

Finally, he decides to look at the radial charts in order to see the complete details of the vehicles like hours to charge, motor generated power, watts per hour, etc.

From the radial charts, Howard can see that out of the three vehicles, the BMW takes the least amount of time to charge and even has the highest motor generated power. The battery energy capacity of the i3 is also a tad higher than the other two cars.

Howard is not easily swayed by the marginal improvement in performance of the BMW and decides to take a test drive of the three shortlisted vehicles before making a purchase.

Using Arcadia Instant, Howard was able to look at all the specifications and the details of a number of electric vehicles and shortlist a few of them. The app and the visuals enabled him to look at and interact with the data without having to delve into a multitude of resources. Greenergy was able to leverage Arcadia’s Role Based Access functionality and provide an interactive self-help service which eventually led them to promote electric vehicles and clean energy.