Electrify America, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group of America, has announced a pilot project to test the viability of robotic fast-charging systems for self-driving electric vehicles (EVs), CNBC reported on Monday (Aug. 5).
VW is partnering with Bay Area startup Stable Auto, a fleet charging firm, to roll out the test program. The idea is to build facilities where self-driving electric vehicles can recharge without human intervention.
A robotic arm attached to a 150kW DC fast charger would perform the task of plugging into the car’s charge port. A test site in San Francisco will be constructed; the goal is to open in early 2020, CNBC said.
Autonomous vehicles are expected to “play an important role in the future of driving, particularly with fleets, and tailored charging options for self-driving EVs will be critical to developing that effort,” Wayne Killen, Electrify America’s director for infrastructure planning and business development, said in a statement.
Electrify America is planning a network of nearly 3,000 chargers online across the U.S. It has 450 charging stations currently in operation, according to the company’s website.
Volkswagen recently announced a joint venture with Ford that will focus on autonomous and electric vehicles. While VW and Ford declined to give more details, sources said Volkswagen will provide Ford with access to its MEB platform – which anchors the ID.3, the first long-range all-electric VW model – as well as a range of other products.
In addition, Volkswagen will invest an amount “in the billions” in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based research firm specializing in autonomous vehicle development in which Ford became a lead investor two years ago.
Dozens of global automakers, as well as tech companies like Waymo and China’s Pony.ai, are competing to bring the first autonomous cars to market. A recent study estimated that the industry’s annual spending on autonomous driving and electric vehicles will reach a combined $85 billion and $225 billion, respectively, by 2025.