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Aug 9, 2017,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Volkswagen and Kuka working on robots to recharge electric cars

Car manufacturer Volkswagen has unveiled a robot, developed in partnership with Kuka, which will automate the battery-charging of its electric cars in the future.


The Volkswagen motor group has signed a new cooperation contract with automation specialist Kuka – which was recently bought out by Chinese household goods and air-conditioning manufacturer Midea for 4.5 billion US dollars – for the research and development of electric and autonomous vehicle technologies. This is not the first time that the two groups will have worked on joint research, with the cooperation being an extension of a pre-existing Volkswagen-Kuka research partnership on human/robot collaboration on production lines.


Electric vehicle strategy

The Volkswagen group is currently making a concerted bid to take over the electric vehicle market. By the end of 2018, around a dozen new electric models are set to be launched, and a further 30 by 2025, as reported by

The constructor also recently unveiled its research platform, namely a vehicle based on a Golf model which will help to develop and test a variety of prototypes revolving around this particular technology. The aim is to provide an insight into "the next generation of automobiles designed for long journeys, in excess of 400 km", the group commented.

The projects are focused on the vehicle itself, and include lightening the chassis while maximising security in the event of an accident, improving batteries, and optimising the efficiency of the electric engine. Work is also being carried out on technologies that are outside the vehicle however, including a very interesting charger project.


Code name "project e-smart Connect"

"We are working intensively on structuring the mobility of tomorrow," says Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen AG. "This concerns not only innovative vehicle concepts but also the new requirements of the services sector." And this is exactly where this particular project comes in.

Behind the code name is an independent mobile robot that is capable of plugging itself into the car and recharging the battery of the vehicle, with the only action necessary on the part of the driver being to park in a designated parking spot. The robot charger is designed for recharging bays in underground or multi-storey car-parks.


An autonomous future


The project illustrates the main thrust of what Volkswagen and Kuka are working on together. "In the future, robots will help humans with a number of routine tasks," explains Dr Till Reuter, CEO of KUKA AG. "Everyday life in the future will be inconceivable without autonomous driving, and we are working together on innovative concepts to shape this future."

This joint research partnership between Volkswagen and Kuka is therefore set to extend way beyond this charger, and new automation projects can be expected for both driving and servicing vehicles.


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