Fortum + IBM Garage: How to support increasing green mobility without killing the power grid

In a co-creation process the international team worked completely remotely.

In a very short time, a viable solution to a clearly defined problem was developed using the IBM Garage methodology.


The coming years will be decisive in the fight against the climate crisis. But where to start? And how to break down such a huge problem into quick, targeted actions?

The energy provider Fortum has been working on solutions together with IBM iX and the IBM Garage methodology. In this case, it concerned itself with green mobility and the contribution that it could make to effectively using renewable energy for electromobility.

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In a co-creation process the international team worked completely remotely.

Finding solutions together to achieve green mobility while maintaining a stable grid

Conflicting objectives slow down green mobility

Our world is embracing the fight against climate change, with electrification and renewable energy on the front lines. However, as separate solutions, these initiatives present two major challenges. First, renewable energy is volatile because it depends on external factors such as weather. This volatility is a threat to the power grid’s stability. Second, electrification — even just powering the world’s existing EVs — is already pushing the power grid to its limits. The solution is to use renewable energy to power electrification. But, how do we do this effectively and keep everyone, from EV drivers to energy producers, happy?

Pain points of the individual actors must be identified

Finland-based energy company Fortum is determined to balance the power grid so that green ambitions don’t fail. However, as part of the energy ecosystem itself, Fortum can see where the problem lies: the key players have conflicting objectives. EV drivers want convenient, cost-effective charging to get them from Point A to Point B. Charge point operators (CPOs) want to reduce the cost of peak energy loads. Fleet owners want to successfully operate their fleets, but they can’t go 100% green to do this because they don’t yet have the infrastructure. Energy providers want to keep the grid balanced without interrupting client business. To achieve green mobility while maintaining a stable grid, Fortum wanted to bring together key players in an open exchange of information. To facilitate this process, Fortum turned to the IBM Garage, a proven framework for transformation that combines people, processes and technology.

Developing solutions for the energy transition in a sprint

In only two weeks, the team validated that simply placing an extra battery next to charging points can enable 100% green mobility at a large scale and keep the power grid alive, while maximizing the service level of CPOs and EV fleet owners.

The battery provides three solutions in one:

  1. Charging points could manage energy loads and avoid peaks that kill the grid and are costly for the CPO.
  2. Fleet owners could have a greater chance of accessing fast charging.
  3. Energy producers could provide primary and secondary reserve capacity to the power grid and monetize this flexibility.

A viable idea in the shortest time

In just a few weeks, Fortum and IBM defined a solution that can help keep sustainability sustainable and resolve concerns from key players in a complex, interconnected ecosystem.

They accomplished this by listening to real people who are affected by both the problem and the solution and then brainstorming resolutions without constraint. The joint team worked collaboratively in an agile way and broke down big challenges into manageable chunks to address within timeboxed sprints.

Even an issue as staggering as our world’s energy crisis can begin to feel approachable when the right mix of passion, methodology and expertise are applied.

Slagan: 2 weeks until the final idea

The IBM Garage: Define, develop, test, validate

Bringing together a interdisciplinary team

In the first week, an interdisciplinary team of business design and customer experience experts from IBM iX in Berlin, Geneva, Hamburg, Helsinki, London, Miami and Zurich was defined. The team started by breaking down the enormous challenge of power distribution into small, solvable initiatives.

Developing a business case for a complex ecosystem

A business case was developed linking climate goals with profitability targets, and work began on deciphering the highly complex e-mobility ecosystems and interdependencies. In addition to IBM Cloud, IBM Watson and IBM Quantum technology, Adobe software was chosen because it provides the end-to-end capabilities needed to create, execute and analyse customer experiences.

The team found that CPOs are at the heart of value creation, acting as a hub to connect utilities with users.

Creatinging ideas in the human-centred design and research process

It started with a human-centred design research phase to minimise risks, sharpen the problem and get on the right track. 16 problem hypotheses and assumptions were formulated to validate the ecosystem value stream. These hypotheses were then translated into interview questions and research objectives.

In total, 14 interviews were conducted with e-car drivers, CPOs and fleet operators. This was followed by concept tests with e-car drivers, CPOs and fleet operators. The results show that e-drivers mainly value comfort and have little incentive to change their behaviour. They also show that CPOs consider charging peaks a massive problem and that fleet operators have had bad experiences with e-mobility adaptations.

Solving problems in the testing and validation phase

In the second week, problem solving was on the agenda. Working closely together, a project plan and the “Golden Thread” – a vision of the future that runs through every aspect of the project – emerged. Using brainstorming, creative solutions emerged in joint working sessions.

Using design-driven approaches, including IBM Garage Enterprise Design Thinking, solution hypotheses and scenarios were created. Continuous testing was done and the solution approaches were adapted accordingly, e.g. based on daily interviews.

A proof of concept was created to explore the possibilities with Adobe technologies. In addition, prototypes of technical architectures and user journeys based on Adobe were created. With the help of a prototype in the form of a landing page, IBM iX tested the business idea. The test persons navigate “thinking out loud” through the website and thus generate important information for the further development of the solution.

Finally, a roadmap was formulated for transferring the proof of concept to production.

”Our partners at Fortum were very keen to experiment and an enormous amount of technological expertise. That was of course a good basis.”
Carlo Schulz
Design Research Director at IBM iX

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