You may remember back a few years ago when Tesla released a video of a robotic charging cable connecting to an electric car without human assistance. The idea was brilliant but the prototype Tesla came up with was, ummm, suggestive might be the gentlest way of putting it. The video provoked a significant amount of giggling and off-color humor. The idea was put back on the shelf and Tesla has not said a word about robotic charging since.
That does not alter the fact that autonomous electric cars, which by definition have no human driver on board, will need some way of plugging into charging equipment from time to time in order to accumulate enough electrons to complete the appointed rounds.
Electrify America is cognizant of the need to provide an automated charging solution specifically for autonomous vehicles and has partnered with Stable Auto, an electric vehicle fleet charging company based in San Francisco, to deploy a handful of robotic EV chargers. The two companies will work together to develop the charging solutions that self-driving and electric vehicle fleets will need in the future.
According to the press release, Electrify America will provide two of its 150 kW DC fast chargers to Stable Auto. The chargers are expected to become part of Stable’s first commercial automated charging site, which is scheduled to become operational in early 2020. Electrify America will then evaluate the hardware, network, operations, and billing at the new charging stations to determine how they can best service autonomous vehicle fleets.
“We believe that reliable, high power electric vehicle charging infrastructure is essential for the accelerated adoption of EVs in the U.S., and recognize that foundational solutions like DC fast charging can be adapted for different charging needs,” says Wayne Killen, director, infrastructure planning and business development for Electrify America. “Autonomous vehicles will play an important role in the future of driving, particularly with fleets, and tailored charging options for self-driving EVs will be critical to develop that effort. We’re excited to partner with Stable to be at the forefront of learning more and developing those charging solutions.”
Stable will manage the overall project and pair its robotic technology and advanced scheduling software located at its San Francisco facility with Electrify America’s chargers. The dedicated fleet charging station will allow self-driving EVs to charge with no operators present. Vehicles will be able to park themselves anywhere inside a standard parking space and Stable’s robot will automatically make the connection between the vehicle and the charger.
“We are proud to partner with Electrify America in this first step towards drastically accelerating the reach of electrification and autonomy. Our models have shown dramatic improvements to fleet utilization and operating cost-per-mile when fleet vehicles are paired with automated infrastructure in strategically chosen locations. For the benefit of our cities and ultimately of our planet, we are excited to introduce this new charging paradigm alongside Electrify America,” says Rohan Puri, co-founder and CEO of Stable.
Electrify America plans to conduct autonomous charging demonstrations to better understand the optimal charging site design, hardware, and back end solutions. Information from this first site will also help both companies evaluate appropriate business models for different autonomous fleet holders across various locations at commercial scale.
Everyone in the automobile business is working furiously to bring self driving cars to market. The majority of them will be electric because AVs and EVs go together like baseball and Cracker Jacks. But they won’t go very far if they can’t be recharged quickly and conveniently. Electrify America and Stable Auto could have this segment of the charging market all to themselves if their collaboration proves successful.
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