EV drivers are demanding more range, and automakers are responding. However, as several observers have noted, this will introduce a new set of challenges. Better batteries can hold more energy, and consumers certainly don’t want longer charging times, so higher charging power levels will be required. That, in turn, will require thicker (or perhaps liquid-cooled) cables.
Volkswagen is predicting that its vehicles will have a range of more than 500 km “in the foreseeable future,” and to ensure that charging remains quick and convenient, the wizards of Wolfsburg are working on an automated DC charging system called e-smartConnect.
VW anticipates that the next generation of higher-capacity batteries will require charging levels of 80 to 150 kW, or even higher. “This can be achieved with rapid DC charging technology, but this approach also requires the use of thick cables,” the company tells us in a press release. “The weight and stiffness of such cables makes them difficult to handle. The research goal of the e-smartConnect project is therefore to automatically couple a DC connector to the vehicle…in conjunction with an automated parking feature.”
VW’s system uses a Kuka industrial robot to hook up the DC connector with the vehicle. “The electric vehicle transmits its profile data to the charging station, which then tells the vehicle’s automated parking system where it should park…The robot then removes the DC connector from the charging unit and inserts it into the outlet. After this is done, the robot is automatically transported via a conveyor system to the next electric vehicle that needs recharging.”