Within the next decade, companies and fleet operators face a serious logistics dilemma: If the future is autonomous and electric, as some major automakers now argue, the only way this works smoothly is if the charging is as well-automated as the driving itself.
That’s what Electrify America plans to study together with the electric-vehicle fleet charging company Stable Auto in a San Francisco pilot demonstration site. The pilot project, according to an Electrify America release, will study “charging autonomous EVs without human intervention using a robotic solution attached to a 150-kw DC fast charger.”
The management for the project and advanced scheduling software will come from Stable Auto, which claims to create dramatic improvements in operating cost per mile and fleet utilization from its services.
Automated charging pilot project - robotic arm at charger
A solution will need to solve some spatial challenges with an arrangement of robotics and sensors. The organizations don’t give any further specifics about what the effort will look like or how it will take form, but a released rendering shows jointed robotic arms, anchored to the ground and attached to some of the charge connectors of the dual-connector DC fast chargers, while the other charge connector remains available for “manual” charging.
The arrangement looks quite a bit different than the “snake” charger that Tesla teased back in 2015, but much closer to a project from Graz University of Technology with a group of technical partners, including BMW and Magna Steyr.
Graz TU automated charging project
The project is part of Electrify America’s announced Cycle 2 plan—including autonomous charging demonstrations. “We believe that reliable, high power electric vehicle charging infrastructure is essential for the accelerated adoption of EVs in the U.S., and recognize that foundational solutions like DC fast charging can be adapted for different charging needs,” said Wayne Killen, EA’s director for infrastructure planning and business development.