Hyundai has developed a robot which can open the charging port on your electric car, and plug you in to top up your battery.
Operate in all environments
Hyundai showed a tentative design for this robot, rendered in CGI, last year but this is the real, mechanical thing. According to Hyundai, the Automatic Charging Robot (ACR) has been: "developed to operate reliably in all environments, regardless of charger location, weather and potential obstacles."
Once you're parked up at a charger, the robot arm communicates with the car - in the video shown to us by Hyundai it's a new Ioniq 6 - to open the charging port, and uses a camera mounted on its arm to line up the charging plug properly. "The ACR will help to make EV-charging easier and more convenient, especially in dark environments. It will also improve accessibility, particularly for people with mobility barriers, as charging cables become thicker and heavier to enable high-speed charging," said Dong Jin Hyun, Head of Robotics Lab, Hyundai Motor Group. "We will continue developing the ACR for increased safety and more convenience, so that all EV customers can soon benefit from using it at charging stations."
Rainproof and dustproof
Hyundai says that the tech is 'deceptively simple' and that the ACR actually needs fiendishly complex software to be able to correctly line up and plug-in the charging cable under all circumstances. It also needs to be strong, so that it can cope with the heavy charging cables of very high-speed chargers, as well as dust and rain-proof so that it can work in all conditions. In fact, the ACR has been given a waterproof and dustproof grade of IP65.
The idea behind the robot is multi-fold. Obviously, it can be used for sheer convenience - drivers can avoid having to pick up heavy, possibly dirty charging cables, or need to stand around in driving rain and howling wind to get their car connected. Hyundai notes that few charging points have canopies or covers, unlike most petrol pumps.
There's another layer to it though, which is making sure that those with mobility issues, such as wheelchair users, can also easily plug in, and a third issue which is allowing cars to autonomously park themselves at charging points, and using the robot arm to top them up.