BREAKING: For Realz – Tesla Working On Metal Snake-Like Model S Charger That Connects Automatically

DEC 31 2014 BY ERIC LOVEDAY 64

Elon Musk Tweets Again

Elon Musk Tweets Again

Connect Automatically In The Future

Connect Automatically In The Future

Just moments ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to explain Tesla’s next project: a solid metal, snake-like charger that automatically connects to the Model S.

There’s not much detail provided by Musk in his series of two Tweets, but the concept of an automatically connecting charger is one we’ve seen and discredited before.

Why’d we discredit this idea in the past?  Quite simply, automatically connecting to an electric car doesn’t seem feasible since electric cars all have charging ports in different locations.

However, with this snake-like charger being specific to the Model S, it’s now something we’d consider feasible, though likely too expensive to be interested in obtaining.

But at some point in the future, when the Model S has full autopilot functionality, including the ability to park itself with no occupants onboard, this idea (or something similar) could be a necessity.

Elon Musk enjoys dreaming big and this idea still seems a bit dreamy to us, but when it comes to making dreams a reality, Tesla Motors appears to lead the way among automakers.

Categories: Charging, Tesla

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64 Comments on "BREAKING: For Realz – Tesla Working On Metal Snake-Like Model S Charger That Connects Automatically"

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GSP

I have no need or desire for this. Plugging in my Volt is easy-peasy.

However, once the Model S with Autopilot can drop you off at the door, then go park itself, this becomes a must-have feature.

GSP

Goaterguy

Exactly, that would complement the auto piloted car avoiding the inconvenience of going back to the garage to charge. What I don’t understand is why Tesla doesn’t develop a wireless charger that the car can park over. Seems much simpler and the technology already exists.

Lustuccc

Maybe because of the losses in wireless transfer?

I think the losses are only 10%. Maybe its a higher percentage when charging at higher rates wirelessly…

Doug B

Agreed, a wireless charger that either lifts to close the gap (or drops from the car) would be a much simpler setup and could eliminate much of the inefficiencies by bringing the two surfaces in very close proximity.

Alonso Perez

Straubel has talked about it and thinks that the loss is unacceptable. I agree. Even an 80% efficient transfer (and that’s quite high since they run typically at 70%) means you lose some 50 miles of charge every time.

The other thing is that it really solves no problem anybody wants to solve. Nobody cares about contactless charging. What people want is to avoid having to plug the car in. Hence he has also hinted at automatic contact systems. This was quite a few months ago. I assume they’ve been working on it.

With the Model S the charger door already opens on remote control, making this feasible. Technically it should not be that hard to do, though it might look a bit like a creepy horror science fiction movie while in action. Mr. Musk seems to have a thing for phalic symbols. Remember the original supercharger signage design and more recently all the D jokes. A metal snake. The mind reels.

Personally I would never buy such a thing but for those who feel plugging their car in is too much of a first-world burden, it is by far a better solution than wireless.

Cavaron

“Mr. Musk seems to have a thing for phalic symbols…”

And his other company does rockets which penetrate the sky and couple with the international space station. And finally he wants to bring the seeds of the human kind to mars. But maybe we are just overanalysing 😉

dwayne

I could not disagree more!!! With my gas car I only had to fill it up once evey couple of weeks – but with my Leaf I have to plug it in all the frickin time. Death by a thousand small cuts! I just want to park my car in my garage like I always do and find it mostly charged up all the time. Automatic charging is a requirement for my next car.

Tom

+1

Stephen

The Leaf’s port is in the wrong place. When I get out of my Volt the port is just one step away. I put my EVSE on the wall adjacent to the port so it only takes a few seconds.

Brian

The Leaf’s port is in the perfect place. You can control where your EVSE is in your garage (to a degree), but have zero control over public locations. Many are in front of the parking spot. Others are to one side or the other (e.g. a double-headed EVSE between two spots)

Tom

+1

ggpa

+10

I bet most new designs (Audi, Kia …) will follow with charge connector in front

jeffhre

+1

Thanks for the idea Tom!

Cavaron

Dunno, considered the time to drive to the gas station, fill up and pay the guy there pretty much covers the time for multiple push and pulls of a plug…

Spec9

I’d like it. Eliminates forgetting to charge, is efficient, and is cool as hell. 😉

Why go in this direction with an automated connector instead of wireless powering? The whole world is going wireless. License the technology from Witricity.

Anderlan

Musk is one of the few people I take just as seriously about something even when they say ‘for realz’.

Occupational hazard. He has five boyz.

Priusmaniac

A robot snake system could be used as a base for such a charger.

Here is a link with a film that gives an idea of it:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2787369/The-robotic-rattlesnake-slither-sand-just-like-real-thing.html

On the other hand, it would really be easier to finally come up with the under the car simple contacts system because it is simpler, less expensive, applicable at home and able to allow the amps and voltage increase that hyperchargers at 1000 KW are going to need anyway in order to achieve 10 minutes charging times.

Kosh

Cool AND creepy…..

Tom

Let’s hope that snake cable finds the the right hole to plug into….

bro1999

Metal Gear Solid? One of my favorite Playstation games. =D

I guess rich folk would appreciate this.

Kandi1

Now imagine this technology at Superchargers, with autopilot to move a car once charged to another spot and allow a new car to charge. So you maximize Superchargers’ use.

Dave R

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

At busy locations people leaving their car too long at SC spots is already an issue. Automatically parking and plugging in and then moving when done would maximize utilization of SCs.

David Murray

When a regular J1772 EVSE is located properly near your car in the garage, it only takes 2 seconds of extra time to plug in the car on your way into the house. I really just don’t see the need to spend a fortune for a gimmick like this.

dwayne

Because you have to do it all the time with a bag a grocerys in your arms. Trolley death by a thousand cuts! Convenience is one of biggest selling points for electric cars. Even with 200 AER, how wonderful to never worry about someone forgetting to plug the car in!

dan

Spending ~10 minutes fueling your vehicle with gasoline, vs 10 seconds plugging your car in, I am surprised it’s such an issue.

If you have a LEAF or Volt, they already sell a wireless charging kit for your vehicle (http://pluglesspower.com/), personally, it doesn’t bother me, and it will become even less of an issue once batteries offer more than 80 miles of range.

Spec9

Wouldn’t spend a fortune…but if it were less than $1k (eventually)? It would be nice.

Leptoquark

Why? This looks like a solution in search of a problem. Just concentrate on putting as much metal on the road as possible. If that is successful, all else will follow.

dwayne

IMO, automatic charging is an absolute requirement for next gen EVs.

Lou Grinzo
One of the simple yet profound lessons of microeconomics is that we all have our own utility function. In lay terms, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. I would not spend a single cent for either wireless charging or a robo snake thing unless there were some overriding benefit beyond simple convenience, e.g. I could charge for free at my workplace if I had one of those gizmos. And even then, I would have to run the numbers to see if it’s really worth it, given how cheap EVs are to fuel per mile. I just passed 21 months with my Leaf, and I love it even more than the day I bought it. Not only do I plug it in nearly every day, but I even (gasp!) charge it via a lowly 110v outlet using the EVSE that came with the car. When my lease is up and I get my next EV (highly likely another Leaf), I plan to do the same, charging-wise. But if things like wireless charging and robo snakes get some people out of ICEs and into EVs, then I’m all for them. In the big picture we desperately need to get people driving on… Read more »
no comment

the funny thing is, electric vehicles were first promoted as allowing for home recharging, where the very idea of being able to recharge at home, instead of a gas station, was considered to be a convenience feature. then you had people coming out with wireless recharging who then tried to convince people that plugging in at home was suddenly not so convenient after all.

as the phrase commonly attributed to p.t. barnum goes: “there’s a sucker born every minute”.

Lustuccc

The idea is having nothing to do at all for the lazy people who find that spending 30 seconds to plug it in is even too much work, even though they are way much better than going to the $ervice $tation, breath in toxic fumes and spending over 5 minutes to get their wallet empied.

Brad

You are awesome dude.

Jouni Valkonen

Again one of my ideas that Tesla stole from me. This is exactly the reason, why I have argued that inductive charging is just silly concept. Because you can easily have a plug that connects itself. At least it is cheaper than inductive charger, because there are no problems with efficiency losses and strong electro-magnetic fields and complex specialized hardware needed that is difficult to standardize.

No one stole this idea from you. Everyone has been talking about this idea since day 1. Obviously it will involve a vision system and CNC servos. I think it would be much more expensive and prone to problems than a wireless system w/no moving parts (BTW there is already a wireless standard). The advantage a physical plug has is that it can transfer more power at this point in time. I could come up w/a laundry list of potential problems w/a snake-plug, but I’m sure everyone else has already thought the same problems themselves.

no comment

you’re suggesting that you have a “laundry list” of *unsolvable* problems associated with this idea??? i am assuming that this system would have a “rest” position (musk mentioned that the system would automatically move “out from the wall”) and the ability to detect when a Model S was within range as well as the ability to detect when the car was recharged so that it would disengage and return to rest position. in other words, i am assuming that this system would be a fully automatic system.

Yes, that is my assumption as well, fully automatic. The list of problems would not be unsolvable, but at some point could make the product unfeasible, or not robust enough.

Brian

Why does Tesla have engineers working on this system instead of improving efficiency and reducing costs on their cars? Do you mean to tell me that Tesla has too much money to spend, and a surplus of engineering talent?

They may not have any engineers working on it. Could have potential suppliers looking at the details. Engineers would only need to provide the solid models.

Brian

I didn’t consider that. I guess I took him literally when he said “we are actually working on…”. I interpret “we” to be Tesla, but now that you mention it, I don’t see why that cannot include their suppliers.

Lustuccc

Who told you they are not working hard on efficiency and reducing costs. A Gigafactory is under construction and it take much more cash to massively build Model 3.
I am pretty sure that tesla is aware of the expectations and in what hurry people are to get good affordable EVs.

Tesla is doing the rEVolution alone! give them a break!

Alonso Perez

Innovative engineering is not just about cost and efficiency. To keep a team engaged you need to let them explore all kinds of ideas.

Musk knows this, as does Straubel. They themselves are like that. They need to explore to keep the idea juice flowing.

Besides, Tesla is spending huge resources on cost and efficiency as it is. That’s what the gigafactory is about, as well as the assembly line improvements.

Brian

Trust me, I know first hand what it takes to keep engineers engaged and innovating. But I also know that sometimes you have to do the “dirty work” necessary to make your company successful. Right now, Tesla needs to be working full-tilt on making the Model III a success. Quite literally, the future of the company hangs in the balance.

Alonso Perez

I don’t disagree about the importance of the Model III but the marginal return on adding engineers to a project drops quite rapidly as management overhead mounts.

Nine mothers can’t make a baby in one month. Sometimes you just need time.

Given his success with SpaceX, if there is one thing I believe about Musk is that he is by far the best CEO around in terms of managing technical talent, and I would not second guess him on that score. Jobs was up there, but he’s gone now.

no comment

i personally believe that “success” for musk is less dependent upon the outcome of tesla motors and more dependent upon his ability “move the needle” for EV acceptance in the general public. toward that end, i think that tesla is an important testbed for evaluating the potential of EV technology that will guide other companies in the deployment of EV technology.

Brian

Valid point. Musk has stated that he wants to show that EVs are intrinsically superior to ICEVs. There is about a zero chance that this concept would be extended to gas pumps. An “auto-service” option next to the “self-service” and occasionally “full-service” pumps? I highly doubt it.

Jouni Valkonen

My guess is that the design of Tesla Model 3 is already mostly finished. Now it is just waiting when they get Gigafactory online and financed. There is no point with Model 3 if there is no batteries available. Much more profitable Model S and X will eat all batteries that Panasonic can supply, so therefore Model 3 is depended on Gigafactory.

Why Tesla is planning Model 3 to be launched in the end of 2016 is that Gigafactory starts production then, if everything goes according to plan. As Gigafactory has been ahead of its schedule, I would assume that also Model 3 will too come ahead of schedule.

Jouni Valkonen

Actually, the problem with Tesla is that they have too much capital that they cannot spend without being wasteful. So time and engineering tallent is not one of their problems, because they can always hire more personel if they _need_.

But as was mentioned below, that all successuful companies encourage their engineers to develop their own side projects that do not have direct relation to their real work. This enhances creativity and may span new innovations that no one thought beforehand.

Bill Howland

It will be interesting to see how fast this transpires. Musk just blew $16Million on his divorce. Of course, at this point in the game he’s probably not financing it out of his own pocket.

no comment
it’s an inventive idea. i suspect that the cost of this implementation is probably quite a bit less than the cost of a supercharger, and certainly less than the cost of a battery swap station. for home use, i would think that the cost would be, at most, a few times greater than the cost of a wireless charging setup, but if you’re driving a Model S, you probably aren’t going to quibble over any difference in price between the two implementations. the sense that i get is that some of the posters are thinking that this is going to be a universally deployed feature used by a wide range of EVSE suppliers. to me that seems doubtful. for one thing, the Model S is not a high sales volume vehicle, so this will be deployed by Tesla and not by the industry in general. the fact that musk wants this to work with current Model S vehicles suggests to me that the charger head will have a camera to locate the plug on the vehicle. i assume that the charge port cover does not lock on the Model S; otherwise the EVSE would have to use some kind of… Read more »
MTN Ranger
mhpr262

A metal snake, really? WOuldn’t a robotic arm attached to the garage wall work just as well

no comment

i think people are taking musk’s “snake” comment a bit too literally. i don’t interpret the “snake” as perceived by musk as being a device that would crawl on the ground and then rise up to locate the charge port. instead, i envision the “snake” to be a highly articulated, multi-segment arm that would effectively “coil up” on the wall when not in use (as opposed to a robotic arm that uses telescoping for fine adjustment).

Mike

If you have an auto parking car with an auto charger you can have a “slot” that is just big enough for your car rather than having a whole garage.

Anon

Tesla “Python” Charger…

The robots really are taking over.

We’re too lazy to plug in once a day, but we drive to the gym to lift weights…

Scramjett

Maybe I’m missing something, but wouldn’t wireless charging solve the autopilot problems and be easier?

Bill Howland

I’ve always posted my opinion is this is the way to go, as it is the cheapest and most efficient way to charge.

Now, possibly simpler implementations of this, such as a plug under the car with a jack pointing down would simplify the alignmet problem.

But first things first: Tesla has rightly ameliorated problems with their UMC connectors first before worrying about automated attachment.

But its not too much of a stretch to see automated attachment schemes as a ‘luxury option’.

Gas stations don’t have this automated attachment as of yet for 2 big reasons:

1). The retail gasoline business is ultra-competitive as it is, and marginal costs matter.

2). People like getting out of their cars to stretch their legs and going into the attached convenience store to buy an ice cream or pack of cigarettes, etc.

Spec9

I like it. Instead of looking at inefficient and slow wireless, they are looking at automated conduction.

And considering that you can put transponders and markings on the car’s receptor, the problem can be simplified.

Nicholas

Wow, I just thought of an amazingly simple, automatic way if it was like a MagSafe…

ggpa

I’m pretty sure these folks already have such a system http://insideevs.com/video-more-details-on-kandis-ev-vending-machine/

lzl

my anaconda….