Ford Motor Co. Starts Robotic EV Charging Station Trial

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn has developed a prototype robot charging station that drivers operate via their smartphone from inside their electric vehicle, enabling the potential for disabled drivers to stay in the car while charging.
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The robotic EV charging station from Ford could provide disabled driver the ability to charge their vehicle without getting out and many other purposes. // Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.
The robotic EV charging station from Ford could provide disabled driver the ability to charge their vehicle without getting out, and many other optoins. // Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn has developed a prototype robot charging station that drivers operate via their smartphone from inside their electric vehicle, enabling the potential for disabled drivers to stay in the car while charging.

According to Ford, disabled drivers have identified ease of charging as a key purchase consideration for electric vehicles. Ford is testing the robot charging station as part of a research project to develop hands-free charging solutions for electric vehicles and fully automatic charging for autonomous vehicles.

“Ford is committed to ensuring freedom of movement and right now refueling or charging your vehicle can be a major problem for some drivers,” says Birger Fricke, research engineer at Ford of Europe. “The robot charging station could be an added convenience for some people but — absolutely essential for others.”

Following initial lab testing, Ford researchers are now putting the robot charging station to the test in real-life situations. Once activated, the station cover slides open and the charging arm extends towards the inlet with the help of a tiny camera. For the trial, drivers were able to monitor the charge status via the FordPass app. After charging, the arm retracts back into place.

In future, the robot charging station, custom-made by Dortmund University in Germany, could be installed at disabled parking spaces, in car parks, or at private homes. Further applications could include fast and efficient charging of company fleets. The technology could also support more powerful charging to charge vehicles in a much shorter time.

“I stopped filling up my car myself years ago because it became very strenuous,” says Angela Aben, a communications employee at Ford of Europe who uses a power-assisted wheelchair to gain mobility and independence. “My husband does it for me. The introduction of a robot charging station would offer me a much greater level of independence.”

A follow-up project with the charging network provider IONITY will look to further improve the robot charging station. Ford is also researching into robot charging solutions in combination with automated valet parking, as demonstrated at IAA in Munich, Germany last year.

Ford’s Blue Oval Charging Network provides customers with access to a network of over 300,000 chargers across Europe. To help drivers find charging stations and pay for charging, Ford Charge Assist can be accessed using the touchscreen of Ford’s SYNC 4 connectivity and entertainment system.

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