Automatic Rapid Charging Robot Becomes Reality, But Not From Tesla

AUG 16 2018 BY STEVEN LOVEDAY 44

Researchers at Graz Univerity of Technology reveal robot-controlled CCS EV fast-charging system.

The current prototype was a joint effort between Graz University of Technology, BMW AG Munich, MAGNA Steyr Engineering Graz, the Linz automation specialist KEBA, and the Austrian Association for Automotive Technology (ÖVK) in Vienna. It is the first of its kinds that will allow vehicles to be loaded in various parking positions in series, waiting to charge. This means it can charge vehicles successively, one after another. It also corrects for a driver’s parking misalignments. The system requires no changes to a vehicle’s existing hardware, nor are any special adapters needed.

Way back in 2014, Tesla CEO Elon Musk declared via Twitter that the automaker was working on a similar system. Though we’ve yet to see this become reality from Tesla.

The leader of this particular research area at Graz University of Technology, Bernhard Walzel, is writing his dissertation on the subject. He explains:

For the first time, we have succeeded in a robot-based charging station autonomously charging several vehicles one behind the other, without the vehicles being specially adapted for it have to. Thanks to ingenious camera technology, the robot recognizes the charging socket of the vehicles and is thus able to autonomously set different parameters- Cars, which successively drive into the charging station, charge. The problem of positioning the vehicle at the loading bay could thus be solved, so that the system works even when parking misalignments occur.

Graz University says that the goal is to offer convenient, automated fast-charging in a matter of minutes. The system employs liquid-cooled connectors and cables. The project’s next step is to pair it with autonomous parking.

Video Description via Technische Universität Graz on YouTube:

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles. that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Many of you probably remember Tesla’s snake-like robot charging prototype from several years back. It has never come to production, but perhaps sometime in the future both of these systems will be available:

Source: TU Graz

Categories: Charging, Videos

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44 Comments on "Automatic Rapid Charging Robot Becomes Reality, But Not From Tesla"

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John

While a cool novelty, I’m not really sure of the point? The cost (and potential maintenance) of robot arms seem to be pointless when one simply has to walk over and plug in their car.

Terawatt

Of course it’s pointless NOW. It’s research and development, not a product on sale now. But with autonomous cars there are huge benefits of course, and the only alternative is wireless charging. So you must weigh the cost of a few thousand robots against the cost of hardware in EVERY car to enable fast wireless charging (which requires using the onboard charger, because only AC can be wirelessly transferred, and only DC can charge a battery).

When you can just get out of the car in front of your chosen restaurant and your car drives to the nearest charger, then picks you up fully charged, it won’t seem so silly anymore!

John

Agreed. If I saw what you’re describing I wouldn’t think it silly, which isn’t what I saw.

Kdawg

If this isn’t a collaborative robot, then it will have to be caged away from humans. This wouldn’t be a problem if the end goal is autonomous driving to charging, as no humans would be around.

Will

No, it’s just laziness

Bill Howland

Not necessarily Will. There are people having problems with arthritis or other handicaps that find it difficult or near-impossible to handle a heavy cable.

While not having these issues myself, I have been at ChargePoints when I have had to almost violently wrestle with the J1772 connector to get it to release from the docking station lock.

Some of these brain dead designers for ChargePoint come up with dopey connectors, but I’m sure there will be times when other companies come up with equally dopey arrangements such that people who no longer have strength in their arms or wrists can make the connections.

This kind of thing solves two problems: The former one as mentioned, and also there is no additional loss or complication as there are with wireless schemes.

John Doe

Yeah, but I hope for wireless charging to be almost standard too. Just park, and charge. No matter if I, or the car do the parking.
This robot will of course be able to handle much higher charging speeds then a normal wireless charger.. I say yes to both 🙂

Nix

What Terawatt said, except on an even bigger scale. Like autonomous taxi fleets that need to charge throughout the day.

SparkEV might like it as a tool for chargers to unplug themselves at public free charger sites, and order the EV to clear itself out of the parking space so someone else can have their turn charging. That would require a robot disconnect and autonomous driving.

Will

Yeah but the fact true is 20 to 30 years away. We been talking ai cars since the late 80s . And if ai cars do go online the ai system would want rights

antrik

Self-awareness is not a requirement for self-driving cars.

Will

We don’t know that. We just making crap as we go

Pushmi-Pullyu

As a computer programmer, I can state unequivocally that if fully self-driving cars need true machine intelligence — self-awareness — then we are almost certain never to see it in the lifetime of anyone reading this comment. After decades of effort, the smartest robots any roboticists have been able to build are about as smart as a not-especially-bright insect. We’re not going to suddenly leap to full human intelligence over the next few years.

We don’t need machine intelligence for self-driving cars, any more than tax return software needs to have a human accountant included in the package. We just need really well developed expert system software, plus considerably better sensors than are currently being used in mass-produced cars.

Pushmi-Pullyu
“…fast wireless charging (which requires using the onboard charger, because only AC can be wirelessly transferred, and only DC can charge a battery).” Altho I’m no electrical engineer, still it seems quite clear from what I’ve read that wireless transfer of power involves converting the electrical power to an oscillating magnetic resonance and back again; and when it’s converted back from the magnetic energy to electrical energy, it can come out as either AC or DC power. In other words, I don’t think using wireless charging is any more energy inefficient when the input is AC than when the input is DC. The real limitation, as I understand it, is the amount of power involved. It may be impractical to wirelessly charge cars at the rate of DC fast charging. Not necessarily impossible in the engineering sense, but with the size of the pickup coil in the car limited by how wide the car is, it may be too expensive to design that for a high rate of power transfer. OTOH perhaps all that’s needed for a faster rate of transfer is to increase the oscillation frequency. That is a tech which mass production might significantly bring down in cost.… Read more »
God/Bacardi

While not on Tesla’s Dr Octopus level, this is still unnecessarily complicated…Existing Roomba vacuum hardware/software with a telescoping vertical cable holder is all you need for this job…

BoltEV (was SparkEV)

Or change / add charging port to be below the car so that roomba can simply plug-in with extensible boom.

Kdawg

W/the 3D vision, the idea was this will work with any existing J1772 port, thus all EVs. However they are going to need to position a robot on each side and provide a horizontal gantry. The reach may still fall short of front ported vehicles. It might be best to put an overhead system w/both X&Y axis for positioning the arm first. They would need to build a database that would identify each vehicle type.

BoltEV (was SparkEV)

Bottom is better than overhead; to accommodate various height cars, the top has to be very tall. Bottom is only few feet high to reach the car at most, and it can be placed anywhere on the bottom. Existing Roomba would fit under all EV today.

Kdawg

We’re talking about existing ports on various manufacturer’s models, not asking all automakers to add an additional port on the bottom of their vehicles. Overhead would keep the system out of the way, and away from dirt/water/etc. Height shouldn’t be an issue, as most cars/trucks fit through a McDonald’s drive through. If you are thinking semi-trucks or anything along those lines, that would be a completely different scenario.

BoltEV (was SparkEV)

Adding small door and wiper on bottom isn’t hard, especially if roomba is carrying broom and dust pan. Come to think of it, Scooba might be more appropriate.

On second thought, maybe overhead might be better; scooba can also clean the windshield.

Kdawg

I wouldn’t rely on the accuracy/precision of something that rolls on the floor for robotic motions like this. Heck, even when you use a 4 ton plate and bolt a robot to the floor, they still have issues at long reaches. Remember a very slight variance at the base is huge at the end effector.

Pushmi-Pullyu

I don’t think the problem of a robot maneuvering to accurately plug something in, is as big as you suggest. It’s been decades since a roboticist first designed a robot that could find a wall plug, and plug itself in to recharge. Plugging a charging cable into a port shouldn’t be much more of a challenge, altho configuring it to plug into any of various models of EVs will be somewhat more difficult.

Pushmi-Pullyu

“Overhead would keep the system out of the way, and away from dirt/water/etc.”

Yup. An overhead charging arm is what ProTerra uses for its high-power EV bus chargers.

I don’t see how you’d keep dirt and debris out of the contacts if you put the charging port on the bottom of the car. Even if there was a cover which moved aside when the car was to be charged, how would you prevent dirt and grit from dropping from the bottom of the car onto the plug, if it was under the car?

Will

Laziness’s and no want for this

Get Real

So Will Troll, how do you think autonomous cars are going to plug themselves in?

Will

Ai cats are 20 years away. Keep it in a lab and stop wasting state monies

Bill Howland

Will as I explained previously many handicapped people with Arthritis or other disabilities find it nearly impossible to struggle with what is (for them) a heavy cord that has to be precisely aligned with the connector while holding up its weight.

This demonstration product is great… I like the way it slowly moves near the car – then takes a picture of the car jack (indicated by the bright lights turning on, then off). After the ‘picture’ has been taken – the unit aligns the angle of the plug with the female car end, and slowly inserts the plug.

While I’m certain the prototype is somewhat costly, I’m sure they are working on ‘cost-reduced’ models to only have the x-y-z movement, along with a slight rotation adjustment to get parallel to the car jack. In my area they will also need a brush on the unit to clean the car area, and also a ‘wiper’ to keep the robot’s camera ‘clean’. In extreme conditions I’m sure it will have a 1500 watt hair dryer to melt any sleet on the connector door should it decide not to immediately open.

Will

A Plug is not heavy. They might need the exercises and the lift

Bill Howland

Nonsense… There were 1 or 2 commenters here who had the WIRELESS installed on their VOlts and Leafs since they said their Arthritis meant dealing with the cord untenable. And of course, a ccs cord is even heavier.

mzso

Who can’t lift a friggin cord shouldn’t be allowed to have a driving license, ever. It means they can’t handle a steering wheel for sure. (Or more likely they’re just whining about (un)plugging twice a day for 5 seconds)

Bill Howland

I see we have very open minded commenters here.
You are just showing your ignorance of what daily life is for some of the less fortunate.
Next time I converse with some handicapped people, I’ll see if they agree with you.

Malome-Ofentse

This could be useful when it’s raining outside or you are disabled and you need someone to help you.

Nix

Good point on the disabled.

James

Laziness is not the motivation for this or inductive charging. Just look to the gridlock at the charger that is coming once 500,000 Model 3s are on our roads. We saw lines at Harris Ranch on holiday weekends plus other oft-used California Superchargers. Tesla even employed valets to charge cars as to ease the lines in waiting.

There is definitely going to be a bottleneck in fueling our cars in times to come. Why not use the autonomous summon feature to move one car out and the best one in? Parking garage locations also come to mind. You are eating dinner, in a meeting, watching a movie or shopping and your phone app tells you your car is now positioned and charging.

My idea is use stacked parking rotisseries to rotate cars into charging position automatically as each car is topped up. I’d rather see inductive charge pads than robo arms. While losses are minimized with a direct connection, these arms seem vulnerable to vandals and breakdowns.

Will

Fat people revolution will come like in Wal E

hpver

On one hand, it’s sort of cool and seems like a fairly easy thing to make robotic. Robots assemble cars and many other items, and this doesn’t seem any more complicated than that.

On the other hand, public chargers are too often abused and/or fail and need service already. This would undoubtedly suffer the same fate. More to go wrong.

antrik

This is actually more complex than traditional assembly robots, since it has to position precisely and in different situations, from visual feedback only, rather than just repeating pre-programmed movements using precision alignment sensors.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Once we have a true universal charging standard, all they need to do is to add a few tiny LED lights in a standard pattern around the charging port, and it will be easy for a robotic arm to correctly position the plug for insertion.

NannerAirCraft

Actually Tesla made a prototype robotic charger back in 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMM0lRfX6YI

Will

And they threw that concept in the garbage

Hauer

HOW is this more „reality“ than the 2015 snake prototype?

Nix

It is less pornographic than the 2015 snake prototype?

*grin*

Will

😭😭😭😭😭 🍆

mzso

“Graz University says that the goal is to offer convenient, automated fast-charging in a matter of minutes. ”

This makes the whole thing stupid.
If it were for the homes of stupid lazy people who can’t be bothered plugging in a connector this would make sense. (And banning stupid wasteful inductive charging in parallel.)