Carmakers are scrambling to get electric vehicles out to consumers.
They are also working on simple solutions to deal with one of the drags on EV sales – keeping them charged. Volkswagen Group has developed a robot charger that moves from vehicle to vehicle to perform that exact task.
Volkswagen unveiled the prototype, which looks like a cross between metal trash can and R2D2 from Star Wars, this week. Describing it as a possible concept that could be used to expand the charging infrastructure, which is still inadequate in most parts of the world. Auto executives from a variety of companies have said they believe expanding the charging infrastructure is a critical factor in boosting sales of EVs.
“A ubiquitous charging infrastructure is, and remains, a key factor in the success of electric mobility. Our charging robot is just one of several approaches, but is undoubtedly one of the most visionary,” said Thomas Schmall, CEO of Volkswagen Group Components.
Volkswagen executives suggest the charging robot could operate in parking garages or other defined areas where vehicles are parked regularly.
The robot operates autonomously, and it is activated by a smart phone. It finds the vehicle needing a charge and communicates with it, opening the charging socket flap to connect the plug and decouple it when charging is complete.
The robot also can charge multiple vehicles simultaneously by hauling a portable charger or chargers to each vehicle from a central station. When the charging is completed, the robot tows the portable chargers back to the central station.
Volkswagen Group Components, which has been given overall responsibility for VW’s charging activities, is working on a complete DC charging family, including a flexible quick-charging station set to launch in early 2021.
The mobile charging robot prototype has passed its initial tests and will now undergo further refinement with an emphasis on the “car-to-X communication” critical to the autonomous charging process, Volkswagen officials said.
“Setting up an efficient charging infrastructure for the future is a central task that challenges the entire sector,” said Schmall. “We are developing solutions to help avoid costly stand-alone measures. The mobile charging robot and our flexible quick-charging station are just two of these solutions.”