Technology

Electrify America: Building Robots to Charge Self-Driving Electric Cars

The pilot charging station will be open for service in San Francisco by early 2020

02.08.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by Electrify America
Photo by Electrify America

Chargers for electric vehicles are currently designed for human drivers. However, as the electric vehicle and self-driving car industries evolve, autonomous vehicles are going to need to charge themselves, without a human taking over.

Volkswagen-backed Electrify America is partnering up with Stable Auto to design a robotic system to charge self-driving vehicles without the need for human intervention. The charging system will essentially combine Electrify America’s 150 kilowatt DC fast charger with software and robotics provided by Stable.

Ultimately, autonomous electric vehicles will park themselves inside a parking space, and Stable’s robots will connect them to the power source—with no need for the driver to intervene.

“Autonomous vehicles will play an important role in the future of driving, particularly with fleets, and tailored charging options for self-driving EVs will be critical to develop that effort,” said Wayne Killen, director of infrastructure planning at Electrify America, as reported by Engadget.

Although the streets today are not filled with electric vehicles or self-driving cars, corporate and government fleets, as well as cars on platforms like Uber and Lyft, have increasingly become electric.

“For the first time these fleets are having to think about, ‘How are we going to charge these massive fleets of electric vehicles, whether they are autonomous or not?'” Stable co-founder and CEO Rohan Puri told TechCrunch.

Stable’s technology uses data science algorithms to figure out the best location for the chargers and scheduling software for once the EV stations are deployed. According to TechCrunch, the algorithms incorporate factors such as installation costs, available power, real estate costs and travel time for the car to get to the charger and get back on the road to service customers.

“Stable has figured out that when it comes to commercial fleets, chargers in a distributed network within cities are used more and have a lower cost of operation than one giant centralised charging hub,” the article explained. “Once a site is deployed, Stable’s software directs when, how long and at what speed the electric vehicle should charge.”

This pilot project, which is scheduled to launch in 2020, will probably be the first of many fleet-focused initiatives for both Electrify America and Stable.

“What we set out to do was to reinvent the gas station for this new era of transportation, which will be fleet-dominant and electric,” Rohan said, as reported by Electrek. “What’s clear is there just isn’t nearly enough of the right infrastructure installed in the right place.”

“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,” Wayne proclaimed.

“Autonomous vehicles will play an important role in the future of driving, particularly with fleets, and tailored charging options for self-driving EVs will be critical to develop that effort.”

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