Ford has developed a prototype of a robotic charging station that drivers can control from their electric car via their smartphone.
The technology allows disabled drivers to stay in the car while charging, or they can leave the car while the robot does all the work.
Disabled drivers have already identified the convenience of charging as an important purchase consideration for electric vehicles. Ford is testing the robotic charging station as part of a research project to develop hands-free charging solutions for electric vehicles and fully automatic charging for autonomous vehicles.
After initial lab tests, Ford researchers are now testing the robotic charging station in real-life situations. Once activated, the dock cover slides open and the charging arm extends toward the entrance using a small camera. Before the trial, drivers could track charge status via the FordPass app. After charging, the arm is retracted back into place.
In the future, the robotic charging station, custom-made by the University of Dortmund in Germany, could be installed in disabled parking spaces, in car parks or at private residences. Other applications may include fast and efficient recharging of company fleets. The technology can also support more powerful charging to charge vehicles in a much shorter time.
Looking ahead, the process could be fully automated, with minimal or no driver intervention. The driver simply steers the vehicle to the charging station, with the infrastructure ensuring that it reaches and returns autonomously.
Ford is also researching robot charging solutions in conjunction with: Automated valet parkingas demonstrated last year at the IAA in Munich, Germany.
Birger Fricke, Research Engineer, Research and Innovation Center, Ford of Europe:
“Ford is committed to ensuring freedom of movement and right now refueling or charging your vehicle can be a major problem for some drivers. The robotic charging station may be an added convenience for some people, but absolutely essential for others.”
Angela Aben, Employee Communications, Ford of Europe, who uses an electric wheelchair to gain greater mobility and independence, adds:
“I myself stopped refueling my car 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 degree of independence.”
A recent UK survey found that 61 percent of disabled drivers would only consider buying an electric vehicle if charging was made more accessible. https://www.ridc.org.uk/transport/inaccessible-charging-barrier-electric-disabled-and-older-drivers
21 Jul 2022Chris Price
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