Autonomous robots tackle charger challenge

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Volkswagen Components is developing an autonomous robot that can be used to charge electric vehicles without the need for fixed charging points.  

Once alerted via an app or a signal from the vehicle, the mobile robot drives itself to the vehicle that needs charging and communicates with it. From opening the charging socket flap to connecting the plug to decoupling – the entire charging process occurs without any human interaction.

The mobile unit navigates with lidar, ultrasound and cameras, and identifies the charging port on the vehicle.

The key is that the mobile robot brings a trailer in the form of a mobile 25kW ‘battery wagon’ to charge the vehicle. The integrated charging electronics allows the wagon to provide DC quick charging with up to 50 kW on the vehicle, staying in place during the process.

The robot, in the meantime, takes other wagons to other vehicles for charging. Once the charging service is complete, the robot collects the energy storage device and brings it back to a central charging station.

This would sidestep the need for fixed infrastructure in public areas such as car parks.

“The mobile charging robot will spark a revolution when it comes to charging in different parking facilities, such as multistorey car parks, parking spaces and underground car parks because we bring the charging infrastructure to the car and not the other way around. With this, we are making almost every car park electric, without any complex individual infrastructural measures,” said Mark Möller, Head of Development at Volkswagen Group Components.

Next: charging infrastructure challenge 

This is part of research into different approaches to the assembly of charging infrastructure and has already developed several successful products. The flexible quick charging station and DC wall boxes are already part of a future charging family.

“It’s a visionary prototype, which can be made into reality quite quickly, if the general conditions are right,” said Möller. “This approach has an enormous economic potential,” he added. “The constructional work as well as the costs for the assembly of the charging infrastructure can be reduced considerably through the use of the robots. Even the well-known problem of a charging station being blocked by another vehicle will no longer exist with our concept. You simply choose any parking space as usual. You can leave the rest to our electronic helper,” he said.

The mobile charging robot is a prototype by Volkswagen Group Components, which gives an insight into the future of charging infrastructure. A possible date for the market launch of the charging robot has not been set yet.

Volkswagen is part of initiatives to establish a charging infrastructure at many levels. Together with its dealers, the company is installing a total of 36,000 charging points throughout Europe by 2025. A large proportion of these will be publicly available. Volkswagen is also launching its own wallbox for home charging called the ID.Charger. And as a co-founder of the IONITY joint venture, Volkswagen participates in installing 400 fast-charging parks on major European highways.

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