Ford has developed and started trials of a novel robot charging station in an effort to help disabled drivers and drivers with reduced mobility, according to a press release.
Ford is no stranger to charging, as the carmaker is focusing on electric vehicles, and its latest electric vehicle Ford F-150 Lightning is able to power a house for 3 days.
Following initial lab testing, Ford researchers are now testing the robot charging station in real-life situations.
Robotic charging station
The novel robot charging station is operated via Ford’s smartphone application, FordPass, enabling disabled drivers to easily charge their vehicles.
In the press release, Ford described how the robot charger works by stating, “Once activated, the station cover slides open, and the charging arm extends towards the inlet with the help of a tiny camera. For the trial, drivers were able to monitor the charge status via the FordPass app. After charging, the arm retracts back into place.”
A research engineer from the Research and Innovation Center of Ford of Europe, Birger Fricke, said, “Ford is committed to ensuring freedom of movement and right now refueling or charging your vehicle can be a major problem for some drivers. The robot charging station could be an added convenience for some people but – absolutely essential for others.”
According to the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, 61 percent of disabled drivers surveyed in the U.K. stated that they would consider buying an EV only if charging was made more accessible for disabled people.
A power-assisted wheelchair user Angela Aben from Ford of Europe said, “I stopped filling up my car myself years ago because it became very strenuous. The introduction of a robot charging station would offer me a much greater level of independence.”
The robot charging station, made by Dortmund University in Germany, could be installed in disabled parking spaces, in car parks, or at private homes in the near future. Further applications of this technology could include fast and efficient charging of company fleets.
This research project complements Ford’s commitment to electrification. A follow-up project with the charging network provider IONITY will look to further improve the robot charging station. Ford is also researching robot charging solutions in combination with Automated Valet Parking, as demonstrated at IAA in Munich, Germany, last year.
Ford recently joined 27 companies in a petition to ensure all new cars and vans in Europe are zero-emission from 2035 and called for targets to grow electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Europe to keep pace with electric vehicle growth rates.