Ford of Europe has developed a prototype robot charging station that drivers operate via their smartphone from inside their electric vehicle. The technology could enable disabled drivers to stay in the car while charging, or they could leave the car while the robot does all the work.
Ford is testing the robot charging station as part of a research project to develop hands-free charging solutions for electric vehicles and fully automatic charging for autonomous vehicles.
Once activated, the station cover slides open and the charging arm extends towards the inlet with the help of a tiny camera. For the trial, drivers were able to monitor the charge status via the FordPass app. After charging, the arm retracts back into place.
In future, the robot charging station, custom-made by Dortmund University, in Germany, could be installed at disabled parking spaces, in car parks or at private homes.
Further applications could include fast and efficient charging of company fleets.
A follow-up project with the charging network provider IONITY will look to further improve the robot charging station.
Ford is also researching into robot charging solutions in combination with Automated Valet Parking, as demonstrated at IAA in Munich, Germany.
Birger Fricke, research engineer, Research and Innovation Center, Ford of Europe, says: “Ford is committed to ensuring freedom of movement and right now refuelling or charging your vehicle can be a major problem for some drivers. The robot charging station could be an added convenience for some people but – absolutely essential for others.”
“I stopped filling up my car myself years ago, because it became very strenuous. My husband does it for me. The introduction of a robot charging station would offer me a much greater level of independence,” adds Angela Aben, Employee Communications, Ford of Europe, who uses a power-assisted wheelchair to gain more mobility and independence.
Ford recently joined 27 companies in a petition to ensure all new cars and vans in Europe are zero emission from 2035 and called for targets to grow electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Europe to keep pace with electric vehicle growth rates.