Volkswagen's approach to the charging infrastructure is quite comprehensive and one of the latest elements is an autonomous charging concept, which utilizes a mobile charging robot.
We already saw the mobile charging units from Volkswagen Group Components (equipped with 360 kWh battery pack), but in this case, the approach is different. A small, autonomous robot will be used to haul similarly compact mobile battery units ("battery wagons") around parking lots and connect/disconnect them to EVs that requested a recharge. Everything has to be automatic, including opening and closing the charging inlet.
"After it is started via app or V2X communication, 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 highlight: the mobile robot brings a trailer in the form of a mobile energy storage device to the vehicle and connects them; it then uses this energy storage device to charge the battery of the electric vehicle. The mobile energy storage device stays with the vehicle during the whole charging process. The robot, in the meantime, charges other electric vehicles. Once the charging service is complete, the robot collects the energy storage device and brings it back to the charging station."
A single mobile battery is expected to hold up to around 25 kWh of energy, and offer a DC charging at up to 50 kW (CCS Combo plug).
Over the years, we already saw several mobile charging concepts, but we must admit that Volkswagen's vision is one of the better ones. Especially the separation of robots to those who are only battery packs/chargers and those who drive around doing the stuff is an important innovation that might translate into lower costs (compared to the alternative of having all robots doing everything by themselves).
"The prototype consists of a compact, self-driving robot as well as flexible and agile energy storage devices, also known as battery wagons. When fully charged, these are equipped with an energy content of around 25 kWh each. A charging robot can move several battery wagons at the same time. When called via app or V2X communication, it brings the energy storage device to the electric vehicle and connects them both autonomously. With its integrated charging electronics, the energy storage device allows for DC quick charging with up to 50 kW on the vehicle.
The robot, which can drive autonomously, is fitted with cameras, laser scanners and ultrasonic sensors. The combination of these systems not only allows the robot to carry out the charging process completely autonomously but also to move around freely in the parking area, to recognise possible obstacles and to react to these. Depending on the size of the parking area or the underground car park, several charging robots can be employed simultaneously so that several vehicles can be attended to."
Mark Möller, Head of Development at Volkswagen Group Components summarises:
“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. It’s a visionary prototype, which can be made into reality quite quickly, if the general conditions are right”.
Gallery: Volkswagen’s Mobile Charging Robot
Only time will tell whether such robots will become a viable and practical solution for charging electric cars.
If not, Volkswagen is engaged in other ways to replenish range as well:
World première: Revolution in the underground car park – Volkswagen lets its charging robots loose
Volkswagen provides a glimpse into the future in which the search for charging stations for electric cars comes to an end. Volkswagen Group Components’ mobile charging robot takes over this task – and drives to the electric car completely autonomously.