Volkswagen thinks it has a solution for parking structures and parking lots without electric vehicle chargers built in. The answer is mobile charging robots, and you can see what they’d look like in action from the illustrations above.
The autonomous robots are yet another vision of what our hypothetical automated electric vehicle infrastructure of the future could look like. VW says the robot can be started by an app or V2X communications to determine where it needs to take electricity. The robot itself hitches up to a mobile energy storage device and then brings it to the car in need. Since this robot is extra smart, it’s then able to plug in the energy storage device to the car.
This storage device has 25 kWh of energy onboard in VW’s concept, and it’s able to charge the car using DC quick charge technology at 50 kW. The robot doesn’t need to stay with the car while it’s charging, though. After plugging it in, it returns to grab more battery wagons to bring them to other EVs in need of a quick charge. Mark Moller, head of development at Volkswagen Group components, thinks this idea is important to build out our EV infrastructure.
“The mobile charging robot will spark a revolution when it comes to charging in different parking facilities, such as multi-story car parks, parking spaces and underground car parks, because we bring the charging infrastructure to the car and not the other way around. With this, we are making almost every car park electric, without any complex individual infrastructural measures,” Moller says.
The ability to park your EV anywhere and have it be charged has the potential to be great, and VW believes this robot solution would be cheaper than installing a bunch of EV charging banks. We’ll point out that you also introduce a few other problems with autonomous robots bumbling about a parking structure. Many parking lots and parking structures simply don’t have room for huge battery wagons and battery robots in-between and behind cars. Volkswagen’s illustrations show photos of these massive parking spots with room to spare behind the vehicles for robots, but that space just isn’t there in many cities. And then there’s the added difficulty of making sure we drivers don’t run into the robots as they’re ferrying batteries around. VW didn’t say how fast they're capable of moving, but we could easily see them being a major nuisance and the cause of traffic jams within parking structures.
As of now, Volkswagen has no timeline on when they’d be ready. The future will have to wait.