Ford has developed a robotic charging station, now testing in its prototype stages.

The new stations allow drivers to plug in without even needing to leave the vehicle, operated via smartphone. The chargers are currently custom-made by Dortmund University in Germany. 

Operation is relatively straightforward: once activated, an arm extends from the charger and towards the vehicle’s charge port with help from a tiny camera. Once charging is finished, the arm will retract back into place. The system was initially developed with the idea of aiding drivers with reduced mobility, such as the disabled and those of older age.

According to Ford, who cited a recent study conducted in the UK, disabled drivers have identified the ease of charging as a large component of the EV buying process. This technology would allow those drivers to charge up without having to exit the vehicle; however, this robotic charger could hypothetically be adopted and used by anyone provided this system was widely adopted. At its onset, we could very well see EV-charging spots designated specifically for those who need them, akin to handicap parking.

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

Once widely available, we could see robot chargers available for anyone. Another cited application was in fleet operation, allowing companies to charge their vehicles more efficiently. Farther down the line, this system could become fully automated. We could see drivers sending their vehicles to park and charge, infrastructure taking over until the driver summons their vehicle.

We understand that infrastructure is one of the most prevalent concerns with regards to vehicle electrification, and it’s innovations like this which provide us with a look into what could be.