The team at the Institute of Automotive Engineering at the Technical University of Graz say this is a world first by using the CCS standard fast charging connectors as other automated systems have used proprietary, seld aligning connectors. The key is image recognition from three cameras in the carging infrastructure to align the connectors automatically so that it works with any standard electric vehicle in any alignment. This would allow high power chargers over 350kW to top up electric vehicles in a few minutes.
The team worked with car maker BMW, local automotive systems company MAGNA Steyr Engineering, Linz-based automation specialists KEBA and the Austrian Society of Automotive Engineers (ÖVK) in Vienna.
“For the first time we have found a way to automatically recharge several vehicles, one after another, using a robotic charging station, without the need to adapt the vehicles,” said Bernhard Walzel, who oversaw the project. “The robot recognises the charging socket by means of sophisticated camera technology and can charge several e-cars in sequence after they drive into the charging station. Problems associated with the vehicle’s parking positioning on the station were solved, so the system still works even when a vehicle is not parked in an exact position.” They also developed the detection system to operate in low light conditions indoors as well as outdoors.
A major challenge facing the researchers was programming and integrating sensor technology to identify the exact position and type of vehicle and charging socket. Working in close collaboration with the Institute of Computer Graphics and Vision at TU Graz, the robotic charging system was fitted with several cameras. These recognise the position and type of the charging socket and inform the robot where to plug in the charging cable. The aim was to design the sensors and charging robot in such a way that it was suited to use with various vehicle types and parking positions, without the need for any changes to the vehicle itself, so the team designed a mechatronic system consisting of sensors, robot kinematics and robot control elements.
The high-capacity charging systems need new liquid-cooled plugs and cables, which can be easily connected to the vehicle using the robot-controlled rapid charging system. The technology also provides a solution that could be implemented for fully automated parking and charging of e-vehicles in future.
Graz is a centre for such development. Volterio, formerly NRG-X, in the city has developed self aligning connectors for automated charging systems at home and is working with a number of global car makers on the technology.
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