Ever having trouble finding an EV charging pile in a parking lot? This has become a shared pet peeve of late for EV owners in China as the country embarks on an ambitious drive to promote EV adoption.
Power suppliers in Suzhou, a city of eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, are banking on robotics to tackle this issue.
They recently deployed a mobile robot charger to a residential compound in Wujiang, a district of Suzhou, that is reportedly able to replenish power for 44 cars parked in an underground garage.
In a video clip obtained by cnrobopedia, the robot can be seen moving along 60-meter rails attached to the ceiling and piloting itself to the designated spot at the request of EV owners.
Users only need to log into a WeChat mini-program and send commands to guide the robot to their parking space.
The robot, upon picking up an order, grabs an idle charger, steers toward the rear of an EV in need of being charged, and autonomously lowers the charger.
Each parking space has an overhead power port. Users can charge their cars after plugging in the charger.
Traditionally, EV batteries are refilled through a charging device affixed on the ground or to the walls.
To meet surging needs for EV charging, often restricted by a number of factors including fewer parking spaces than needed or parking spaces hogged by fuel-powered vehicles, power suppliers across China have increasingly relied on mobile robots, instead of fixed charging posts.
cnrobopedia reported in early February that a state-run utility company in Wuxi, also a city in Jiangsu, deployed two EV-charging robots at a rest area on the eve of and during this year’s Lunar New Year holiday, to relieve EV owners’ “range anxiety.”
In the case of Wujiang, the overhead robotic charging system consists of multiple power ports, EV chargers and a mobile robot.
Through motion control, IoT and dispatch algorithms, the system has partly reversed the way EVs are charged, by bringing power supply to the needy, rather than leaving them to access it on their own — sometimes even battle over it.
“The all-electric shared robotic EV charging station is highly suitable for the current domestic market environment,” said Zhang Zheng, deputy general manager of Suzhou Energy Group, which was responsible for putting the system in place.
He added that the shared EV charger scrapped the need for EV owners to install a charging post before purchasing the car.
In addition to spurring the sharing of parking spaces and charging piles, the system also goes a long way toward addressing long-standing problems such as a shortage of charging options, low ratio of charging pile usage, and car park management.
The shared robot charger also proves to be an economical solution as it requires only one robot to meet the needs of all EVs parked in the same section, said Zhang, the deputy general manager.
The system also possesses merits such as flexible deployment, where the number of chargers or power ports can be adjusted depending on the number of cars parked, effectively reducing upfront construction costs.
Compared to the traditional fixed-pile setup, the rails, chargers and robot included in the system adopt a modular design, making the layout a lot easier.
To spur the growth of the EV industry, power suppliers in Suzhou will draw on this success story and expand the robotic system to more scenarios like old neighborhoods and shopping malls, media reported.