Volkswagen wants robots to hunt down parked electric cars and charge them

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Volkswagen wants to charge electric cars with autonomous robots.
Image: Volkswagen

Electric cars are the future. There is no avoiding the fact that, eventually, consumers will come around to the idea. As battery technology gets better and cheaper, the prices of these vehicles continue to decrease. However, one problem remains as a huge barrier to the electric car market—it can be hard to find a charging station in some areas.

To solve that problem, Volkswagen has an interesting idea. The carmaker thinks that chargers should come to you. It hypothesizes that this could be accomplished by a network of autonomous robots that hunt down electric cars and charge them while they are parked. A concept of the robot was recently revealed by the company.

‘Battery Wagon’

Imagine how convenient it would be if someone came and topped off your gas tank every time you put your car in park. That’s exactly the world Volkswagen envisions for electric car owners. Its “battery wagon” operates autonomously to deliver power to electric vehicles while they are unoccupied in public parking lots.

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Interestingly enough, the robot doesn’t actually hang around to complete the charging process. Instead, it hooks up a 25 kWh, DC fast-charging battery pack to the parked cars and leaves it there. The robot is capable of carrying several of these units with it during one charging round. Each parked car can receive up to 50 kW of power. The battery wagon navigates around with an array of cameras, sensors, and lasers that guide it around cramped parking lots.

To make the process even more efficient several battery wagons could operate simultaneously to cover all of the electric vehicles in a lot. At this point, Volkswagen hasn’t said whether its proposed system would charge all cars or just its own electric models.

It also isn’t clear what happens if a driver returns to their car before it finishes charging. However, it would likely be as simple as unplugging the charging unit. Volkswagen’s autonomous robot could then come and retrieve it.

Likewise, the company didn’t provide details about how the battery wagon recharges its power units. Considering the fact that it is capable of hooking them up to cars, though, it should be more than smart enough to connect the units to their own charger.

Innovative Solutions

For the electric vehicle market to fully blossom, innovative solutions like this one are needed. Unfortunately at this point, Volkswagen’s idea for autonomous vehicle charging robots is only a “visionary” prototype.

On the bright side, an idea like this could become a functioning prototype pretty quickly. Companies have already figured out how to make robots that move autonomously, and others are more than capable of completing complex tasks.

Putting a system such as this one into place would be huge for the electric vehicle industry. It may even be enough to draw in hesitant consumers who worry about running out of power. It won’t be surprising if Volkswagen’s system (or one like it) pops up in the real world sometime in 2020.

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