Charging electric vehicles autonomously: Why the Underbody Charger could be the e-charging station of the future
The fact that electric vehicles are too expensive, are limited by long charging times, cannot travel far enough or can only be charged by cable are arguments that still deter many potential customers from buying an electric car. However, the development of e-mobility is progressing rapidly - also thanks to the efforts of Schunk Smart Charging.
"Charging an electric vehicle will become as easy as refueling," our expert Ahmad Kamar is certain. Since 2018, the product manager has been driving forward the development of a prototype for an autonomous fast-charging system for electric vehicles in the context of smart charging.
Underfloor solution charges electric vehicles within a few minutes
The so-called Underbody Charger is designed to enable efficient, safe and convenient charging of various vehicle types in just a few minutes. This is made possible by a Smart Charging charging system that can be retracted into the road surface, a docking module installed in the vehicle floor and extremely high power transmission.
This means that the charging process can be shortened to just a few minutes, even when the batteries are completely empty, and easily integrated into everyday vehicle use. The system could also be used in your own garage to enable autonomous charging. No need to touch cables!
How the Schunk Underbody Charger works
This short video shows how the concept of underbody charging works:
FAQ - frequently asked questions about autonomous charging with underbody charging
Ahmad Kamar answers frequently asked questions about the underfloor charging system for electric vehicles:
How long does it take to charge an electric car with the Underbody Charger?
Ahmad Kamar: Our goal is to use our underbody solution to autonomously charge an electric vehicle with a 100 kWh battery from 20 percent to 80 percent in less than 10 minutes.
What influence does fast charging have on the service life of the batteries?
Ahmad Kamar: Our smart charging system is designed for the next generation of batteries. With today's battery technology, fast charging can actually lead to damage to the batteries after a few years - provided this type of charging is used exclusively. For the future battery generation, however, fast charging will be the standard - and the Underbody Charger is designed precisely for this battery technology of the future, which can be charged at a rate of 2, 3 or 4C.
Do I need to plan a break between two charging cycles?
Ahmad Kamar: No, our smart charging system is designed so that it can charge continuously and serve one vehicle after another. This will also be the requirement in the future. For example, if there is a direct payment option at the charging station, the driver can continue driving immediately after charging and release the charging station for the next vehicle.
How much does the on-board hardware weigh?
Ahmad Kamar: The weight of our series product will be around two to three kilograms.
How can the charging system be installed in the garage at home?
Ahmad Kamar: Unlike at a public electric charging station, where the charging station is sunk into the ground, a cost-effective solution could be adapted for the garage floor at home. The charging system could then be easily connected to the wallbox or power supply at home.
Are you also planning to develop inductive, contactless energy transmission?
Ahmad Kamar: No, we concentrate on conductive charging. There are three reasons for this:
● The main focus: Conductive charging is our core competence. We have over 100 years of experience in this field.
● Charging power: We want to enable high-power charging with our system. This is not possible with inductive charging technologies or is very complicated and costly. The reason: inductive charging requires a high-power converter from AC to DC. Large and expensive components such as these are not desired by OEMs and are therefore of no interest to us.
● Charging efficiency: With inductive charging, a charging efficiency of 93 percent is only achieved in the very best cases. This is a high line loss and therefore not economical.
What is the current status of the project?
Ahmad Kamar: We demonstrated our prototype of the Underbody Charger as part of the first pilot project for autonomous driving and charging (Aula). After extensive testing, we are now in the process of further developing our initial concept. We are currently taking part in the Mega-Laden research project together with three other partners, where we are testing our product with fleets of e-trucks in a logistics center. Our aim is to demonstrate the underfloor charging system in real logistics operations by the end of 2022.
The Underbody Charger is one of several Schunk Smart Charging solutions for autonomous charging of electric vehicles - from electric buses to electrically powered mining vehicles. If you have any further questions about Schunk Smart Charging solutions, please contact our experts for autonomous charging.