Descriptions of a product’s usage context are easily understood and often provide useful information for reducing energy consumption of products. Such descriptions help inspire concept generation, explore operational issues, and evaluate prototypes. Nevertheless, characterizing the usage context as a concise but comprehensive set of factors is not a trivial task. This paper presents a taxonomy and method for characterizing the usage context and its various scenarios as sets of factors relevant to energy consumption. The taxonomy defines a general usage context as a set of human, product and situational factors that can be specified individually to create unique scenarios. The method for identifying relevant factors is grounded by first assessing variables in the fundamental physical equations that govern product operation. Then, activity diagrams reveal the elements influencing user habits and procedures. The method is demonstrated through the example of an automobile and the results are compared with existing automobile studies.

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