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Electrify America to Deploy Robotic EV Chargers in San Francisco in a Pilot Program

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【Summary】Electrify America announced an agreement with San Francisco-based electric vehicle (EV) fleet charging company Stable Auto to deploy robotic electric vehicle chargers for self-driving vehicles in San Francisco.

FutureCar Staff    Aug 01, 2019 11:10 AM PT
Electrify America to Deploy Robotic EV Chargers in San Francisco in a Pilot Program
The robotic EV charger from Electrify America

As both electric and autonomous vehicles are being developed simultaneously, one of the challenges for autonomous fleet operators and automakers is how will an electric autonomous vehicle recharge when there is no human driver to plug in the vehicle for charging and monitor it. A new pilot program in San Francisco is being launched to study ways robotic chargers can do the job without assistance.

Electrify America announced an agreement with San Francisco-based electric vehicle (EV) fleet charging company Stable Auto to deploy robotic electric vehicle chargers for self-driving vehicles in a pilot demonstration site in San Francisco.

The two companies will launch a pilot in San Francisco, CA, aimed at charging autonomous EVs without human intervention using a robotic solution attached to a 150kW DC fast charger. This charging location will be Stable's first commercial autonomous EV charging site and is anticipated to be open in early 2020.  

Electric automaker Tesla unveiled a similar solution in 2015, developing a prototype charger resembling a "robotic snake" that automatically attached to a Tesla vehicle's charging port.

While there is plenty of plug-in EV charging infrastructure being built in the U.S., the EV charging stations are not equipped to charge self-driving vehicles. At the San Francisco charging location, vehicles can park themselves anywhere inside a standard parking space, and Stable's autonomous robot will make the connection between the vehicle and the charger.

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A rendering of what the autonomous charging station might look like. A self-driving car parks and a robotic arm plugs in the charging cable.

"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." said Wayne Killen, director, infrastructure planning and business development, Electrify America, LLC.

As part of the agreement, Virginia-based Electrify America, which is investing $2 billion to build the largest EV charging network in the U.S., will evaluate the hardware, network, operations and billing of its charging systems to best suit autonomous charging fleets. 

Electrify America has provided two 150kW DC fast chargers to Stable's San Francisco charging facility. The DC fast chargers can charge a vehicle's battery pack to 80% in about 30 minutes.

"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," Killen wrote in a statement. 

Stable will manage the overall project and pair its robotic technology and advanced scheduling software located at its facility with Electrify America's chargers. The dedicated fleet-charging facility will allow self-driving EV fleets to charge with no operators present.

As a part of Electrify America's Cycle 2 plans, the company announced plans to conduct autonomous charging demonstrations to better understand the locations might be designed, including the hardware and back-end solutions. 

Information from the pilot will also help both companies evaluate future business models for autonomous fleet operators and study ways of scaling the operations for commercial use.

A rendering of what the autonomous charging station might look like. A self-driving car parks and a robotic arm plugs in the charging cable.

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