Volkswagen Group Components has presented a mobile robot that can autonomously charge electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids, offering a potential solution to keep EVs charged during storage in compounds.
The robot is designed in the first place for underground car parks, which may have a limited number of dedicated parking bays with a charge point. “A ubiquitous charging infrastructure is and remains a key factor in the success of electric mobility,” said Thomas Schmall, CEO of Volkswagen Group Components.
The robot works with a number of mobile battery packs that are charged at a central station. When a vehicle requires charging, the robot collects one of the packs and brings it to the vehicle. Using Car-to-X communication (a technology which is present as standard on some new VW group models but which is still far from ubiquitous), the robot can open the vehicle’s charging flap and connect the charger.
The robot leaves the charger with the vehicle and can go on to connect other chargers to other vehicles. When the charging is finished, the robot retrieves the charging pack and takes it back to the central station to get recharged.
VW Components’ intention is to integrate the charging robot into an overall concept that will focus on the long-term success of electric mobility, and thus the electrification of transport. Schmall added: “Our developments do not just focus on customers’ needs and the technical prerequisites of electric vehicles. They also consider the economical possibilities they offer potential partners.”
Ensuring the charging infrastructure is in place is one of the big questions in supporting the delivery of EVs. The port of Zeebrugge introduced a battery charging area at its main vehicle terminal that includes 304 battery chargers with 11kW each and two superchargers of 135kW each. Currently, there are over 1,200 charging points at Volkswagen’s ten sites in Germany. The biggest charging park, in Wolfsburg, has 500 charging points.
How the autonomous chargers will be used exactly is still to be determined. VW’s spokesperson said: ”At the moment the robot is a study showcase for what charging in the future could look like. Many purposes are imaginable, but it is still under development and not yet defined, when it will hit the market and for what purposes.”