If electric vehicles are going to replace conventional gasoline and diesel-burning vehicles in the future, the world is going to need a lot more charging stations. But retrofitting parking garages with the hardware required to serve a growing population of EVs is expensive, and dedicated EV parking spaces aren’t much use if they’re hogged by Teslas that aren’t plugged in (you know who you are).
Volkswagen is working on a EV charging solution that doesn’t depend on dedicated parking spaces. Rather, it uses autonomous robots and portable batteries that bring the charging equipment to the vehicle.
The company recently released a video that graphically demonstrates how the mobile charging system works. The process begins with the driver starting the service using an app that communicates to the robot the position of the vehicle. The robot hitches itself to one of the multiple available “battery wagons,” and navigates autonomously to the vehicle’s parking space. Using V2X communication, the robot can open the vehicle’s charging port, and connect the battery to the socket. The robot can return to its station while the vehicle is being charged and position batteries to other autos in the garage. Each battery has an energy density of 25 kWh and a 50 kw charging speed.
When the charging session is finished, the robot returns to disconnect the charger and return the battery wagon to the docking station. It’s not clear if the robot could go back and return with another battery to fully-charge some vehicles. The entire process can be completed without any assistance from the driver.
The mobile charging system is still in development by Volkswagen Group Components, a research division of the automotive manufacturer. Although they haven’t publicly revealed their prototype, the company says it can quickly be commercialized.
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