And it could be a game changer.
The change from internal combustion-engined vehicles to all-electric alternatives is upon us. This automotive technological evolution won't happen overnight but it has certainly started. The likes of the Tesla Model 3, Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron, and Ford Mustang Mach-E are proof. Electric vehicles require regular recharging and while this could certainly happen at a charging station placed at, say, a typical gas station, it can also be done at owners' homes. But Volkswagen has come up with a potential new alternative.
Introducing the Volkswagen Group Components' mobile charging robot. That's right, a robot. It physically drives itself to the electric vehicle all by itself. No human action is necessary, aside from activating the robot via an app on a smartphone or through a connected car system. Once summoned, the robot is capable of opening a charging port and connecting a plug to the vehicle.
It can even go and charge other vehicles and then return to collect the energy storage device, which VW refers to as a "battery wagon," once the charging process has finished. Each of these "wagons" has 25 kWh of power and is capable of DC fast-charging at up to 50 kWh. The robot itself is fitted with cameras, laser scanners, and ultrasonic sensors, a combination of systems allowing it to carry out the charging process fully autonomously and to move around freely in the parking area. It can even recognize obstacles in its path and react when needed.
VW adds that depending on the size of the parking area and/or undergoing parking garage, several of these charging robots can be in action at once in order to attend to as many EVs as necessary. Basically, this mobile charging robot means future charging stations don't have to be stationary.
This will allow drivers to essentially park in any available space, regardless of whether or not there's an available charging station. The robot brings the charging station directly to the vehicle, not the other way around. Mark Möller, head of the Volkswagen Group Components division, said this robot "will spark a revolution." It also has "enormous economic potential" because it can reduce the need for fixed charging stations to be installed.
In addition, it'd eliminate the problem of charging stations being blocked intentionally or unintentionally by other vehicles, a practice that's become known as ICEing. For now, this robot is a "visionary prototype," but VW added it can be "made into reality quite quickly." No official market launch date has been announced.