Ford recently revealed a very special project it is working on: a charging station that plugs itself into the vehicle to make life far easier for EV owners with physical disabilities.
“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.”
A prototype robot charging station has been developed by Ford that drivers control from inside their electric car using their smartphone. The technology might allow disabled people to stay in their vehicles while they charge, or they can get out of the car and let the robot take care of everything while they shop, eat, or use the restroom.
Ford researchers are currently putting the robot charging station to the test in real-world settings following laboratory testing. The station cover slides open when activated, and the charging arm extends toward the intake using a tiny camera. The arm then retracts back into position after charging is completed. During the whole process, drivers can monitor their charging levels using Ford’s app.
The process may be fully automated in the future, with little or no driver involvement. The driver would simply send the car to the charging station, with the infrastructure itself ensuring that it gets the right charge and reaches its destination on time. Eventually, these robot charging stations (created by Dortmund University in Germany) may be put in disabled parking spaces, car parks, or even at private homes. Fast and efficient charging of corporate fleets may also be a great use for the technology.
“I stopped filling up my car myself years ago, because it became very strenuous.” said Angela Aben, who works on Employee Communications for Ford of Europe, and uses a power-assisted wheelchair daily. “My husband does it for me. The introduction of a robot charging station would offer me a much greater level of independence.”
This is only the start. A follow-up project with IONITY will look to improve the robot charging technology even further. In addition, Ford is exploring robot charging technologies in tandem with Automated Valet Parking, as seen at IAA in Munich, Germany last year. This would enable customers to drop off their car at a parking facility, and have it automatically find and charge itself while the customer is away.
This is a very important development, because it will give disabled people more independence and allow them to use electric vehicles just like everyone else.
Charging electric cars can be difficult for disabled people, as they often have to get out of their car to plug it in. Ford’s new robotic charging station could help with this, by automating the whole process and allowing disabled drivers to stay in their vehicles while they charge. It’s great to see Ford taking this initiative and we hope to see more companies follow suit in the future.
Featured image provided by Ford.
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