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Self-service re-charging station for driverless vehicles

This truck has not driver, yet it needs to stop and recharge its battery. A robotic system is there to help. Image credit: Siemens

The Industry Automotive Association is holding its flagship event this week in Munich, Germany. Among the many talks and showcases of innovation, I stumbled onto a robotic system designed to recharge EV without the need for human intervention.

When we talk about autonomous vehicles we focus mostly on the driving part. The vehicle is autonomous since it does not need human intervention for driving: some trucks are being prototyped, and tested, without a cab (like the one in the photo), other vehicle are being designed with disabled people in mind… That is very good, but what happens once the EV is running out of juice and needs a recharging? The on-board software can take the EV to a charging point but then somebody will need to plug in the cable for re-charging the batteries. That implies a manned station and this makes for higher cost.

Siemens is presenting at IAA 2021 their vision for a recharging station “manned” by robotised charging points (the charging point is a robot) that can become aware when an EV is approaching to recharge and can take action. The EV just needs to park, a communication will take place between the EV and the robotic charging station, the robot will look for the charging socket and will plug in the cable. Once the recharge is complete it will detach the cable and send the EV on its way.

Their charging station starts with an initial power capacity of 300kW and can scale up to 1 MW, thus serving several recharging trucks at a time. Notice that a robot serving as recharging point is also a welcome addition due to the significant weight of the cables needed for high power recharge.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.