Volkswagen Develops Automated Quick Charging e-smartConnect (w/video)

JUL 27 2015 BY MARK KANE 26

Volkswagen e-smartConnect

Volkswagen e-smartConnect

Volkswagen’s e-smartConnect research project is trying to develop an automated quick charging system for the next generation EVs.

There are few important elements behind the idea of automated charging.

500 km range in the foreseeable future

The first is announcement of next generation EVs with 500 km range (310 miles), compared to just 190 km / 118 mi (e-Golf) even in NEDC (over 80 miles EPA). Longer range means more battery capacity, and more battery capacity forces higher charging power to keep charging times reasonable.

“The improvements Volkswagen has achieved with the energy density and capacity of its traction batteries will enable a range of more than 500 km in the foreseeable future. This will lead to “true electrification” of personal transport with a large volume of vehicles. In order to make charging times for such vehicles as short as possible — and the charging process as efficient and convenient as can be — engineers in Wolfsburg are working on an automated direct-current charging system, a so-called automated e-filling station “e-smartConnect”.”

80-150 kW or more DC charging power

Volkswagen often states 40 kW of DC power to charge e-Golf in around 30 minutes to 80% capacity. So 80-150+ kW is an important declaration.

We are curious when we will see 80 or 150 kW Combo chargers on the market and then installed along the routes.

Automatic couple a DC connector

According to Volkswagen, due to the weight and stiffness it would be good to automate charging.

“The next generation of electric vehicles will be equipped with higher-capacity batteries. Very high charging capability (from 80 to 150 kW or more) is needed if such energy storage devices are to be charged quickly. This can be achieved with rapid DC charging technology, but this approach also requires the use of thick cables. The weight and stiffness of such cables makes them difficult to handle. The research goal of the e-smartConnect project is therefore to automatically couple a DC connector to the vehicle.”

“The actual link between the DC connector and the vehicle is created via a low force/moment cable arrangement and the use of the “LBR iiwa” lightweight robot from Kuka. The robot’s seven drive axles and integrated torque sensors ensure a precise, force sensing, and reliable connection.”

Intelligent combination with automated parking

Since we have a robot, which takes care of connecting the vehicle to charger, maybe the whole experience of parking and charging could be automated?

“When such charging is carried out in conjunction with an automated parking feature, the process takes only a minimal amount of time and is extremely convenient and reliable.”

Here is how it works:

Automated parking: down to the last centimetre

The automated charging process begins with communication between the vehicle and the charging station. The electric vehicle transmits its profile data to the charging station, which then tells the vehicle’s automated parking system where it should park. In order to achieve the necessary precision (the DC outlet on the vehicle must be positioned within an area measuring 20 x 20 centimetres), the surrounding infrastructure is supported here by the vehicle’s own assistance systems. In addition, a camera mounted on the robot’s gripping device calculates the exact position of the socket down to the last millimetre. The robot then removes the DC connector from the charging unit and inserts it into the outlet. After this is done, the robot is automatically transported via a conveyor system to the next electric vehicle that needs recharging.

e-smartConnect ensures safe and reliable human-robot collaboration (HRC)

Once the charging process is complete, the robot receives a command to remove the DC connector. After this is done, the vehicle automatically leaves the charging area, making it available for the next car. This ensures optimal utilisation of charging station capacity.

The system is perfect for public use because e-smartConnect technology also monitors the entire process to ensure there is no danger of any harmful physical contact between the robot and people. Human-robot collaboration is thus made possible without any need for additional safety barriers.”

Categories: Charging, Volkswagen


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26 Comments on "Volkswagen Develops Automated Quick Charging e-smartConnect (w/video)"

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I love robots. I want robots that serve me in my home – bring me a beer and a snack from the ‘fridge, vaccume my floors and deliver things and messages to my family members throughout the house. I’d like robots to mow my lawn and wash my car. I’m not lazy, I just love technology and feel there’s a huge market for REAL robots that serve us – not just little round wheeled things that cost too much and don’t vaccume my floor half as well has a hand-held, human-operated vacuume cleaner. Now I have to say I cannot see the need for a robotic arm to fuel my car. Are we really too lazy to plug in? Do I need a tiny replica of VW’s device to plug in my mobile phone too?! This is a lot of complexity and a lot of technology that can go wrong. It needs to perform this task – then the New Energy Vehicle sits there for 30 minutes to quick charge. Not sure if the expense and trouble is worth the effort. Inductive charging seems to be making big strides as to power loss/efficiency, and it makes tons more sense to… Read more »

James, that was classic. I think the whole things centers around autonomous drive where no people are involved. I have to admit, inductive charging seems a lot easier and cheaper.

This robot is capable of all sorts of things, when it needs to be much more limiting. The handle could be permanently facing the EV and facing slightly down for weather.

It does not need all six degrees of freedom. If you depend on the autonomous EV being able to move forward and backwards, you should be able to get by on one rotational and two transitional freedoms max.

I think what you may be missing is this is for cars that will park themselves, so humans won’t be there to plug them in.

Say you step out in front of the restaurant then tell you car to go to park/charge itself. When done eating, you tell your car to come pick you up.

Another advantage is if there are 10 cars waiting for a 30 minute charge, you don’t have to sit around and wait. Just leave your car in the queue and take off to do your own business.

– and Yes, I understand this is for commercial applications. It is still the solution for a problem nobody has.

I can see great value in automated gas stations. Today, men and women struggle with that gas filler, maneuvering it into place with the anti-fume tube aligned, etc. The smell, the stress of the guy behind you in line at a busy pump at rush hour – giving you the evil eye if you wash your windshield or they think you’re taking too much time…This way you stay safe, out of the rain, etc..

This system still has similarities to the VW EV-arm. If it is malfunctioning, will you be able to refuel? Is there a manual mode? What if it just won’t couple to your car? It’s a mechanical device, meaning at some point it will need servicing and it will malfunction – and is susceptible to abuse, misuse and vandalism.

Automated gas pump:

Here’s one more like VW’s.

Thick cables? Why not use Tesla’s watercooled way lighter cables…

I was thinking the same thing. Heck they are not even at 1/2 the power of a Supercharger station either.

While we are at it, let’s just have the computer or robot drive the car! How fat and lazy are we getting? Am i the only one that loves driving? I have cars and motorcycles that would make horrible transportation. Ive never driven them to work. Why do i have them? Because they are fun to drag race, autocross, or just drive around on a nice day with the top down. I love my electric vehicles but do miss adding some gofast parts or modifying it to perform better. And now you want someone or something else to plug it in for me? No thanks. I live in NJ where the pump gas for you by law. The rare times i do get gas for something now, i pump it myself! I’m perfectly capable and not likely to scratch up my vehicle or spill gas down the side like the attendant usually manages to do. Again, like someone else said we are searching for a solution to a problem we dont have! If they wanna invent something, how about a kill switch on a gasoline car’s fuel door so you can’t start the car up and pull away with the… Read more »

I must say that I find this post to be right on, as the saying goes.

Ken, as much as I love driving, I don’t like looking for a parking spot or waiting for a charger.

Also, your post is kinda of contradictory. First you say we should fill our own gas, and not have to use an attendant because they spill fuel. You realize an automated process wouldn’t have that problem. Automation is not only used for speed but also for quality control. Second, you mentioned people driving off w/the fuel handle still in their vehicle. This seems much less likely w/an attendant (or automated process).

I pumped gas in NJ in the 90s and the amount of people that drove off with the nozzle in their vehicle was astounding. I had 8 pumps i was resposible for and couldn’t run fast enough to stop them. It usually happened after they visited the minimart while leaving their car at the pumps. Sometimes the car was even done filling. It was quite hilarious to watch but we would get in trouble if it happened on our shift too much.

I can hardly wait for autonomous cars, even though I enjoy driving as well.

I have a short commute, yet still waste away more than five hours a week that could be spent reading relaxing, or even napping.

Further, it would be really nice to have a few drinks with dinner a couple times a month without having to plan ahead to get home safely. Especially at the local comedy club. Or enjoy the big game without having to be the designated driver almost every time…

Once autonomous cars are common and their advantages become apparent in daily life, I think we’ll find very few holdouts who want to drive manually.

Indeed this thread unlike VW is on the better track… Inductive charge is already possible at 200kW 90%+ efficiency… Someone should point VW to Bombardier… I only hope no EU subsidy was used to make this robot with no future.


And then the human still has to close the fuel door. Lol.

A robot arm holding the cable? Why in the world isn’t the robot arm the cable and the robots hand the plug? Is it like the robots arm will do other things while the cable is plugged? Like cleaning the windows of the car?

Because that would tie up the robot from going around and plugging in / unplugging other vehicles. It’s on a conveyor system.

Indeed. It’s a failure of vision to use a general-purpose robot for the task, instead of building the robotics into the charging unit. Like the idea of using one mainframe computer to control everything instead of having computer chips in appliances and devices.

But after reading about all the challenges this tech faces, it looks like wireless charging is going to win out. That’s a tech that has already been developed.

What about a “Metal Gear Solid like robot snake thingy” ?
It would be so much cooler than that big mechanical arm.

As usual, VW is playing catchup and failing miserably… What is wrong with these people? Let’s over-engineer to a 3-year old tech. :oP

No one heard about wireless charging?

Anyway – reading the article made me wonder about how many chargers needed to support X EV’s with autopilot. The cars could go get their power and come back when needed. Even no need for parking around the residence. No Uber needed, no traffic lights, no need to won a car….. utopia or nightmarish big brotherism?

I don’t think there is 50-150kW wireless charging yet, nor do I think it will happen anytime soon. It’s probably not a good idea to send that much power through an air gap.

There is 100kW+ wireless charging but it is for buses.

I figured there might be exceptions like bus usage, where they can have extremely large surface area or robotics to lower the air gap (something that can work with conductive charging also).

Looking at the specs, each 20kW module installed on the bus weighs 400 lbs (a non-starter for auto applications). 100kW would weigh 2000 lbs. It takes 5 modules, It also looks like the pickup length is 5 meters (16 ft). No problem for a 30-40ft bus, but obviously won’t work for a car.

With this , Airinductionchargingandstoragesyste 500+ miles can be reached now. Can be made to go coast to coast without stopping to charge.