Volkswagen is upping its electric vehicle game in a big way—and not with a car. It says it’s bringing into production a prototype of a charging robot that it debuted back in 2019, and it liked the original design so much that the company is sticking with it.
Basically, this friendly-looking robot is to provide “fully autonomous charging of vehicles in restricted parking areas, like underground garages,” Volkswagen notes in its press release. Here’s more about how it’s supposed to work:
It independently steers to the vehicle to be charged and communicates with it: from opening the charging socket flap to connecting the plug and decoupling it. The entire charging process takes place without any human involvement whatsoever. To charge several vehicles at the same time, the mobile robot moves a mobile energy storage unit to the vehicle, connects it, and then uses this energy storage unit to charge the vehicle and repeats the process to charge other vehicles. Once the vehicle is fully charged, the robot independently collects the mobile energy storage unit and takes it back to the central charging station.
There are, admittedly, some flaws in the plan. For the robot to work autonomously, EVs will have to be connected to a larger charging network in order to alert the robot to its presence—which isn’t something we’ve been able to pull off yet. Different automakers are still resistant to joining forces with others to create an overarching EV infrastructure, and many governments have been behind the curve when it comes to developing that infrastructure independently.
The robot is said to be able to dodge traffic and pedestrians while also managing the battery levels of all cars in its care—and that will require a lot of different technologies to adequately pull off.
And then there’s the fact that most people would rather do their charging at home, not out in public. The latter option is done more on the basis of absolute need or convenience, while the former just makes more sense for a lot of people. VW is pouring a lot of resources into a technology that isn’t really going to be super applicable to tons of situations.
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There is a great bonus to this idea, though. Last weekend, we talked about the fact that EV charging ports aren’t always accessible to people with disabilities for a plethora of reasons: a lack of ramps, heavy chargers, etc. A friendly little robot designed to handle all those tasks will be a great help to the people who need it most.