Originally published on EV Obsession.
A while back, Elon Musk hinted at the creation of a robotic EV charging station (actually, a “solid metal snake“). It seemed like a genuine plan, but you know, he’s got a bit on his plate…. Volkswagen, meanwhile, has a big crew with a bit of time on their hands, and they apparently did go ahead and build an automatic, robotic charging station, the VW e-smartConnect. Check it out:
On the Tesla Motors Club forum, where I found this video, user “Saghost” notes, “I expect that in the future some busier Superchargers will be fully automated — the car drops you off, goes to a holding area until a stall is free, charges, unplugs, and goes back to holding until you’re ready to leave.”
I think this is more than a dream. In a different post on the TMC forum recently, someone talked about his encounter with a high-up at Tesla who was testing out autopilot software. The guy or girl had pulled up to a Supercharger station and the Tesla parked itself next to it. It’s not much more of a leap to assume that Superchargers will one day be able to plug themselves into your car. And it certainly isn’t a leap to assume that Tesla’s autopilot cars could drop you off at a nice resting, food, or entertainment spot to spend your time while your car charges. This year? No. Next year? Doubt it. By 2020? It’s very conceivable.
But hey, this article is about Volkswagen, right? Kudos to the old VW for its pioneering role in robotic EV charging. More info on the VW e-smartConnect can be found here. From that page: “Volkswagen AG is once again underscoring the leading role it plays in electric and automated drive systems — and is already looking ahead to the next generation of electric vehicles. 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.’ ”
Looks good! However, VW also writes that “rapid DC charging technology… requires the use of thick cables. The weight and stiffness of such cables makes them difficult to handle.” Hmm, I guess someone needs to tell Tesla (and Tesla drivers).
That said, VW is keen to be thinking about the automated parking idea I was just dreaming about. “The research goal of the e-smartConnect project is therefore to automatically couple a DC connector to the vehicle. 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.” You can read more details over on the VW page.
By the way, getting back to that metal snake charger Elon Musk hinted at, Chris had a bit of fun speculating about that in January, with a video of a potential such snake, “the OC Robotics Series II X-125 snake arm, which can be fitted with a multitude of different functions at the tip, which can support up to 6 kg of equipment.” It is used for various purposes already, with “boring machines, inspection cameras, and high-pressure water jets for cleaning hard-to-reach places,” but not for EV charging. Yet, it seems like a pretty perfect fit. We’ll see….