Charging infrastructure is a key component to expanding electric mobility around the world, but how do you make charging easier in areas where space is a premium? Volkswagen has an idea.
The Volkswagen Group Components has developed a prototype of a mobile charging robot. Its task is fully autonomous charging of vehicles in restricted parking areas, like underground garages.
“A 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,” said Thomas Schmall, CEO of Volkswagen Group Components.
The charging robot — started via an app or Car-to-X communication — steers to the vehicle to be charged and communicates with it: from opening the charging socket flap to connecting the plug and decoupling it. The entire process takes place without human involvement. To charge several vehicles at a time, the mobile robot moves a mobile energy storage unit to the vehicle, connects it and then uses the energy storage unit to charge the vehicle before repeating the process with other vehicles. Once the vehicles are fully charged, the robot independently collects the mobile energy storage unit and takes it back to the central charging station.
“Setting up an efficient charging infrastructure for the future is a central task that challenges the entire sector,” said Schmall. “We are developing solutions to help avoid costly stand-alone measures. The mobile charging robot and our flexible quick-charging station are just two of these solutions.”
The flexible quick-charging station will be launched onto the market in early 2021. Now that the mobile charging robot has successfully reached the prototype phase, it will be further developed. One key component for market maturity is the Car-to-X communication to facilitate the autonomous charging process.
The Volkswagen Group Components will be responsible for all charging activities and systems in the future, with the goal of integrating the charging robot into an overall concept that focuses on the long-term success of electric mobility.
“Our developments do not just focus on customers’ needs and the technical prerequisites of electric vehicles,” said Schmall. “They also consider the economic possibilities they offer potential partners.” For instance, the electric charging robot could enable operators of parking structures to quickly and simply “electrify” every parking space by utilizing the mobile charging robot. This would reduce any construction work needed and the potential cost factor to the operator.
Volkswagen of America, headquartered in Virginia, has its manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but also includes operations in research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, and financial service centers.
In mid-November, Volkswagen of America broke ground on the Battery Engineering Lab at its Chattanooga Engineering and Planning Center, a $22 million facility that will test and validate electric vehicle cells and battery packs for the North American region. This goes along with a 564,000-square-foot electric vehicle production expansion and a 198,000-square-foot battery pack assembly facility, all located in Chattanooga. The Chattanooga vehicle manufacturing plant will begin producing the Volkswagen ID.4 all-electric SUV in 2022.