Charge me up, Jeeves!

Volkswagen wants to deploy charging robots by 2021

The electric car revolution faces numerous challenges, including the need for extensive charging infrastructure

30 December 2020 - 09:29
Volkswagen imagines a future where we simply tap an app and a robot charges our EVs while we shop.
Volkswagen imagines a future where we simply tap an app and a robot charges our EVs while we shop.
Image: Supplier

The Volkswagen Group may well be winning the electric vehicle (EV) charging race. Many electric carmakers are faced with the daunting task of setting up EV charging networks. They are notoriously expensive and a laborious task. For context, modern-day EVs would probably require two, three at most, hour-long fast charges to successfully complete a trip between Johannesburg and Durban, such is the advancement in battery tech and real-world driving range.

This is all good and well for one EV out of 500 conventional cars, but what if 500 EVs need to charge at roughly the same time? This would require a vast network of roadside points.

Volkswagen has shown prototypes of a mobile charging robot it hopes will enhance and expand charging infrastructure over the next few years. The entire charging process takes place without any human involvement, as the robots are fully autonomous and will work in restricted parking areas, such as underground car parks.

The command to work will be via an app or Car-to-X communication protocols, where the androids will independently waltz to a vehicle to charge it, commanding the charging socket flap to open, connecting the plug and decoupling it.

To charge several vehicles at the same time, the mobile robot moves a trailer filled with mobile energy storage units. Each unit stays with a single vehicle during the charging process.

In the meantime, the robot moves to other cars to juice them up. Once the charging service has ended the robot independently collects the mobile energy storage unit and takes it back to the central charging station.

“An 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,” explains Thomas Schmall, Volkswagen Group Components’ CEO.

“The mobile charging robot and our flexible quick-charging station are just two of these solutions. The business unit is currently working on a complete DC charging family. The flexible quick-charging station will be launched onto the market in early 2021,” continued Schmall.

For several weeks now, the DC wallbox has been trialled at the company’s German production sites and the robot has successfully reached prototype status. It will now be comprehensively further developed, according to Volkswagen AG.

It sounds like a perfect plan to complement conventional charging infrastructure and the robots would alleviate space constraints common with dedicated EV-charging parking bays.


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