The European Union wants you to become the “main player” in the electric car revolution and to achieve this status European manufacturers are investing in various technologies to improve vehicles and customer experience.
As the automotive industry moves toward advanced levels of autonomous functionality, including automatic parking capabilities, automakers such as the Volkswagen Group and tier 1 suppliers such as Continental are working to develop solutions that automatically recharge electric vehicles after are parked.
Continental Engineering Services is working on a fully automatic loading robot with Austrian startup Volterio, which developed the concept.
Intended for use in private garages, the robots could be deployed in public areas later, with the volume production of the system being planned for 2024 in Germany.
The solution consists of two components: the connection unit installed at the bottom of the vehicle and the self-contained mobile unit on the floor.
Once the car is parked, the two components are automatically connected by an intelligent system, which could be controlled by ultra-wideband – a radio-based communication technology for short-distance data transmission.
Thanks to this system, the car does not have to be parked with extreme precision – the loading robot can correct a deviation of 30 cm.
Alex Rupprecht, director of transmission and electrification at the unit of the German mega-supplier Continental, said that CES carried out an analysis of the various recharging technologies.
Other approaches remain visionary
Volkswagen Group Components has also been working on a mobile charging robot, which at the moment remains more of a conceptual vision than a functional product, but could also be used in parking lots or restricted parking areas.
A VGC spokesman confirmed that the loading robot is still a prototype – a December 2020 press release stated that one of the preconditions for market maturity is Car-to-X communication to facilitate the “autonomous loading process.
“A ubiquitous charging infrastructure is and remains a key factor in the success of electric mobility,” VGC CEO Thomas Schmall said in a statement. “Our loading robot is just one of many approaches, but it is without a doubt one of the most viewed.”
Tim Urquhart, chief car analyst at IHS Markit, said the development of such a device could be especially useful for owners of electric vehicles who have space at home but can live far from public charging stations.
“One of my problems is that there doesn’t seem to be a common thinking between car manufacturers and other players about how they will load their vehicles,” he said. “This could work in urban parking lots and in urban areas, so there is huge potential, but marketing and scale are the bottlenecks.”
This means that car manufacturers will have to accept the concept and accept the additional cost of installing the charging component.
“It’s something they will have to negotiate, and this will probably start with premium brands before they reach more vehicles in the mass market,” Urquhart said. “The CES seems to be a more cost-effective solution than the VW concept.”
He called VW’s idea a potential longer-term solution for AVs that go into automatic parking spaces, where the docking station will likely be able to connect to the vehicle.
“Then you will arrive with a load without problems, which is what we all want,” he said. “For now, this is a very good step before electrifying the vehicles.”
BMW passport for electric cars
A consortium of German-funded carmakers and battery makers, including BMW, Umicore and BASF, will develop a “battery passport” that tracks the carbon content and footprint of batteries in Europe, the German Ministry of Economy said.
The 11-member consortium received € 8.2 million in government funding to develop a common classification and standards for the collection and disclosure of battery data, which could soon become mandatory under European Union regulations.
A European Commission proposal to be discussed later this year states that rechargeable electric vehicles, light transport and industrial batteries sold in Europe must reveal their carbon footprint from 2024 and meet a 2027 CO2 limit.
It must also disclose the content of recycled raw materials in those 2027 batteries, followed by requirements for the use of a minimum quota of recycled cobalt, lithium, nickel and lead from 2030.
The German consortium is the first project in Europe to try to design a digital product that complies with these regulations, said the German Ministry of Economy.
Batteries may have a QR code that links to an online database where electric vehicle owners, companies, or regulators may access battery composition information.
This digital tool should also facilitate the recycling of raw materials inside batteries, according to the government statement, which would reduce dependence on foreign suppliers who control the vast majority of resources, such as lithium and nickel, which are essential for battery production.
Independence from imports of rare metals
Schaeffler said it had signed an agreement to secure the supply of rare earth magnets in Europe for its electric vehicle business.
It is the first agreement reported by a European car supplier or manufacturer to buy rare earths in the region. China currently controls the supply of rare metals, such as neodymium, which are used in most “permanent magnet” electric motors produced today.
The EU is trying to reduce China’s dependence on metals, which are also used in wind turbines, as it strives for carbon neutrality by 2050.
Schaeffler has agreed a five-year deal with REEtec in Norway to supply rare earth oxides starting in 2024, said director of operations Andreas Schick.
“We are becoming a supplier of electric motors and we are growing significantly,” he said. “Therefore, when it comes to rare earths, we need competent partners who not only go through the standard supply chain through China, but we need a local supply chain for Europe.”
Schaeffler, based in Herzogenaurach, Germany, is making the transition from internal combustion components, such as bearings, to parts for electric vehicles such as motors, electric axles and integrated drive modules.
The supplier wants to block the supply of permanent magnets to support its plan to be a major global supplier of electrical transmissions for the fast-growing EV industry.
Schaeffler’s electric mobility business generated orders worth 3.2 billion euros last year, with results showing almost a third of all orders in the automotive technology division and much more than the initial target for electric mobility of 1.5 billion. billion to 2 billion.
The European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States are fighting to build domestic rare earth and magnet industries to take over China, which supplies 98% of Europe’s permanent magnets.
The bloc expects demand for permanent magnets in electric vehicles and wind turbines to increase tenfold by 2050, when the EU and the UK pledged to reduce their net greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
The supply in Europe has a price
Schaeffler usually buys components made from subcontractors or so-called Tier 2 suppliers. A sustainability-focused company has made it available for raw materials for the first time instead of ready-made magnets, Schick said.
Schaeffler is also working with European partners to use the rare earths processed by REEtec to produce permanent magnets.
As a mature industry with tight margins, the automotive industry is known for focusing heavily on cost reduction, but industry sources said there is a growing acceptance among carmakers and suppliers that they have to pay more for rare earths. from Europe.
They can be marketed as more sustainable, which may justify a higher price tag by the customer, say industry analysts.
Rare earths are not uncommon, but complex processing, which can generate toxic waste, is required to separate the ore into 17 individual elements and to produce the alloys used in a range of electronic products as well as in electric vehicles.
REEtec uses a cleaner, less energy-intensive technology that recovers and reuses almost all of the chemicals used in processing, said CEO Sigve Sporstol.