Volkswagen's EV Charging Robots

May 18, 2022

Deploying Rapid Charging Where It's Needed Most

While adoption of electric vehicles continues to increase as gasoline prices rise and technology continues to improve, charging infrastructure remains an issue. Whether it’s a level 2 home charger or a high-speed level 3 DC fast charger, charging equipment can be expensive and complex to install in some areas – particularly in the urban centers where EVs make the most sense.

Retrofitting large numbers of chargers into large under-ground and above-ground parking structures can require big investments owners and developers, but is there a better solution? Volkswagen thinks it may have found one: charging robots that can fill themselves up centrally, and then deliver charge to individual vehicles in an automated fashion, communicating wirelessly with vehicles to open their charging ports.

The charging robot operates completely autonomously. It can independently move itself to the vehicle to be charged. Using Car-to-X communication, the robot can then ask the car to open the charge socket, and maneuver its plug to couple with the car. The entire charging process takes place without any human involvement whatsoever.

Robotic Trailers To Charge Multiple Cars

The robot can even charge several vehicles at the same time. It can move a trailer – essentially a mobile energy storage unit – to one vehicle, connect it, and then move onto another vehicle while the first vehicle is charging. Multiple trailers can be used to charge multiple cars; the robot can then collect the trailers to return them to the central charging station.

One of the hurdles in the way of the widespread application of this type of charging robot is Car-to-X communication – the ability for a vehicle to make use of 5G and similar networks to communicate with other vehicles and devices. Some new electric vehicles are now shipping with Car-to-X built in but not yet enabled; other older EVs may not be. What Car-to-X will allow is a vehicle that’s low on charge to “summon” a charging robot when it’s in a parking structure, and “release” the robot, or its trailer, once charging is complete.

Volkswagen says that its mobile charging robot has reached prototype status and is being developed further. It is but one of many flexible charging solutions the company feels are necessary to broadly implement charging infrastructure. Other products Volkswagen is working on include a flexible quick-charging DC wall box, which is significantly cheaper and less complex than the level 3 DC charging stations we are used to.

Less-complex, and less-expensive, DC fast charging will help significantly accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in the densely populated urban areas that would benefit the most from EVs.