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Robot charging station provides hope for disabled EV drivers

New tech allows drivers to activate charging using a smartphone app from inside their cars

A robot charging station with an automated arm that plugs a cable directly into an electric vehicle’s (EV) charging socket is being trialled by Ford.

The prototype station is designed to be operated by a mobile phone app, allowing drivers to operate the system from inside their vehicle, and has been designed to address the serious accessibility issues faced by disabled drivers who would otherwise struggle to manipulate EV charging cables.

It’s widely acknowledged that disabled drivers see charging as a practical obstruction that puts them off switching to EVs, and the robot charging station is part of a Ford funded research project to develop hands-free charging solutions for both drivers with mobility issues, and to automate the process for a future generation of autonomous or self-driving vehicles.

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The system has already been lab tested, and now the robot charging station built by Dortmund University in Germany is undergoing real world trials. Once activated by the FordPass app, the robot arm extends from behind a sliding cover, and homes in on the car’s charging socket using a camera. It is anticipated that the robot charger could be installed on disabled parking spaces, in car parks and even at private homes, while the technology could also be used to improve the efficiency of charging for vehicle fleets.

Having been successfully trialled, Ford says there will be a follow-up project IONITY, the charging network backed by European car makers.

Auto Express has been campaigning for greater action from industry around charging accessibility. Back in May we exposed how a draft proposal for the new British Standard for accessible chargers failed to address the very real issue of charger cable weights, kickstarting a Motability funded British Standards Institute investigation into cable weights that we hope will appear in a revised standard due to be published in the coming months.

Now read our list of the best electric cars on sale...

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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