By on December 29, 2018

Image: VW Group

Concerned that customers won’t buy vehicles from its upcoming electric product tsunami for fear of missing their turn at the plug, Volkswagen is offering a fairly novel solution: mobile charging stations that also require recharging, presumably from a much larger charging station. A power station, for example.

The takeaway from Volkswagen’s lesson in energy packaging is “Buy an electric Volkswagen. You’ll be fine.”

As you’re no doubt well aware, VW wants vehicles built on its dedicated MEB electric architecture to populate every driveway and roadway in Europe and beyond. Possibly even bedrooms and kitchens, too. Setting a high bar for itself, the German automaker aims for one million annual MEB-platform vehicle sales by 2025, anticipating 10 million sales from the “first wave” of MEB products, spread out over 27 models from the automaker’s various divisions.

Production of the first MEB model, the VW I.D. hatchback, kicks off in earnest in 2020, with VW following it up with a multitude of introductions over the next two years.

As we’re only days away from 2019, the automaker has reason to worry about the limited proliferation of charging points. Something has to juice those cars, and it’s unrealistic to think every municipal parking lot and garage, every store and place of business, every roadside pull-out or gas station will have a proper amount of chargers installed in time to make VW’s lofty, green-tinged dreams come true.

Enter VW’s mobile quick charging station.

Revealed this week in VW’s home base of Wolfsburg, the refrigerator-like mobile charger could exist independent of the electricity grid, if needed, housing enough power (up to 360 kW) to charge “up to” 15 e-vehicles.” Four EVs could charge at any one time — two on an AC hookup, two more on faster (100kW) DC plugs. Composed of the same vehicle battery packs it’s tasked with recharging, the first mobile stations appear in Wolfsburg as part of pilot project early next year. Come 2020, other German cities get theirs.

Image: VW Group

The key word here is “mobile.” VW sees these units rolling out as either permanent fixtures or as-needed temporary stations for events. “This enables charging points for electric vehicles to be set up quickly and simply, without any structural changes or major financial outlay,” the company writes.

“If the energy content of the integrated battery set is less than 20 percent, the depleted charging station is simply exchanged for a charged one,” VW continues. “If, however, it is permanently attached to the power supply with up to 30 kW via alternating current, the battery pack perpetually recharges itself.”

Where possible, a mobile station could be recharged specifically with renewable energy, such as from a wind turbine. The station could then be rolled out to wherever it’s needed for off-grid clean recharging. As well, stations recharging at off-hours would exert less stress on the country’s grid, reducing the need for extra peak-hour generation. Contrary to some reports, Germany still burns a lot of lignite (coal’s dirty brother).

When purchased by cities and companies, sales of the mobile stations would juice not just cars and e-bikes, but also VW’s finances, allowing the company to recoup some of the expense of its product rollout. However, the company didn’t dive into the details of exactly how it plans to make these stations available.

Mass production of the mobile stations begins in 2020.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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36 Comments on “Volkswagen’s Solution to EV Charging Woes: A Charging Station That Requires Recharging...”

  • avatar

    Possibly one of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve ever heard. Now we need a huge plant to recharge these battery stations, along with a system to monitor and exchange them. If they can charge only 12-15 vehicles, that means huge fleets of battery exchangers roaming the cities where the apartment dwellers need these chargers most. That would not do well in New York or Los Angeles, where grid lock is always near. Next the problem of disposing of these million or so charge points when their own mega batteries are depleted. I don’t know the answer to recharging the millions of proposed electric vehicles, but, IMHO this is NOT it.

    • 0 avatar

      Not a problem. We will start to see gas stations converted to recharging stations as dinosaur juice (and dinosaurs that burn it) are phased out.

      Batteries can be recycled. They’re not AA cells.

      The big problem with EVs is the lack of charging stations, especially fast ones, and this idea may solve that, at least in the interim. They need a lot of energy storage for a short period of time for people on long trips. Then it’s game over for gasoline.

    • 0 avatar

      These would not be deployed in big cities in any significant numbers. In big cities you have access to the power grid. Plus in big cities people don’t charge their cars at public chargers, they charge them at home or work. There is a reason that the Tesla super charger network is mainly between cities near the interstate.

      I see 2 uses where this could make some sense.

      1. As a stop gap in an area without access to the grid or where the grid can’t support peak demand.

      2. Seasonal Tourist areas or large event locations. For example pop them around places in Yellowstone in the peak summer months (and not have to worry about them being under several feet of snow for months at a time). Or have them follow around to festivals like Burning Man, where some are deployed on site while others are placed on the main roads in a 25-75 mile radius depending on the area.

      So not the worst concept in the world, but it will only fill a small niche.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh and I’ve got a 3 practical use, natural disasters. Come Hurricane season deploy them to the main evacuation routes. In the PNW we usually get a good windstorm or two every fall that leave people w/o power, some for several days. Drop a couple of these at a shopping center, school or church in the affected area.

    • 0 avatar

      There are some open questions, but that was a whole bunch of conclusions yoou jumped to on your way to make the conclusion you wanted to make when you clicked this link.

      First off, the point of smaller portable stations is that you DON”T need a huge plant to recharge them. The article specifies UP to 30 kW AC but doesn’t say it won’t charge at lower speeds.

      In terms of your point about gridlock (one word) in cities, these won’t be destined for cities for the simple reason that cities are already well equipped with EV charging station and will scale up as necessary to meet demand, both because therre’s money it and cities are in desperate need of relief from ICE emissions.. The places where these will be used are more rural areas and for special events, as this article very plainly states.

      In terms of “a system to monitor and exchange them” why would you assume that “we” would need to do anything when the much greater likelihood is that they would monitor themselves and that either VW or private contractors would handle the transportation logistics for all the reasons I previously mentioned. I’m not sure how you think gasoline currently gets to the gas pump in New York or Los Angeles, but last time I checked it involved “huge fleets” of extremely flammable gasoline tankers “roaming the cities” that explode on impact and are vulnerable to terrorist attack.

      In terms of disposing of these “million or so charge points when their own mega batteries are depleted”, you just made up the term “mega battery” because it sounded scarier than “charge points” and was far enough removed from your ridicule about them being so tiny that they could only charge 12-15 vehicles that you didn’t think it would stomp on your point.

      These aren’t meant to be a permanent solution, just an intervening one to bridge the gap between internal combustion engines and electric vehicles. Given that outside of all the mechanics that will be put ot of work due to the much less complicated EV architecture there aren’t really disadvantages to EV’s for consumers or society at large and a ton of advantages, this probably won’t be as long as you think. The obvious customer that I see for these are gas stations for the obvious reason that they probably won’t cost them any upfront money while allowing them the chance to make money from EV’s and earn customer loyalty for the not so distant future.

      I agree that there are some details that need to be addressed before signing off on this proposal, but in terms of comments that elevate the discussion, IMHO this is NOT it’.

  • avatar

    “Buy an electric Volkswagen. You’ll be fine.”

    Translation-We have a government gun to our head and so should you.

    “The big problem with EVs is the lack of charging stations”

    The big problem is specific energy and electro-chemical durability.

  • avatar

    Is this Son of “Buy a diesel Volkswagen. You’ll be fine”?

  • avatar

    This seems so stupid. Explain to me again why you wouldn’t just pull in directly to the power grid?

    • 0 avatar

      If you live in an urban apartment without a parking space (like NYC, LA, Chicago) and work at a job that doesn’t offer parking with a charger, you don’t have easy access to an electrical hook up.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        They can’t put an outlet in, but the city is going to let them drop a giant battery on the sidewalk? And suppose an accident happens and some car Rams into it. They can’t put out the fires from a single battery pack.

        I don’t care where you stand on electric cars, this is an assini e and overly complex solution.

  • avatar

    Highway charging stations in general may as well be a ploy to get affluent people out of their cars and stuck in one relatively isolated place for a long time.

    Perps in fully gassed-up cars will probably appreciate them.

  • avatar

    For years I’ve been saying that the best approach is the propane tank method. Swap out your dead battery for a charged one. Takes seconds. Requires a standard battery design, but what car can’t be set up to use a flat battery that attaches under the frame?

    • 0 avatar

      Tesla tried this, almost no one used it so the program was ended.

    • 0 avatar

      Eh, maybe for a fleet situation, but compared to just “piping” the energy out of the grid it’s exponentially more hassle. Who actually owns the batteries? How many would a station need to have on hand? How much labor and/or equipment is needed to swap them and store them and retrieve them?

      Batteries are at the point where overnight home charging is fine for normal daily use, it’s just for long trips where you have a problem. I don’t expect that to improve greatly for a long time, but the best solution for the foreseeable future is just to use the gas car which EV drivers invariably also have for those trips.

      • 0 avatar

        @JimC31: “just to use the gas car which EV drivers invariably also have for those trips.”

        That’s what I thought I’d do. The problem is that once you get used to the driving dynamics of the EV, you won’t want anything to do with the gas car. So, what do I do on a long trip? Sit down and have a nice breakfast and catch up on my email. Not a terrible thing. You’re not standing at the side of the car pumping in electrons. It’s not a bad thing. My next car with 250 to 300 miles range will probably eliminate that stop anyway.

        The overnight use charging has worked like a charm. It’s like having a perpetual motion machine. The car is always fully fueled when you get into it. No hassles of getting in and out of a gas station and standing out in the cold pumping gas.

        People are getting all bent of shape because a couple times a year they’ll have to stop for 30 minutes after 3 hours of driving to do an unattended fueling of their cars. I used to take those kinds of breaks when I had my gas cars anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “The problem is that once you get used to the driving dynamics of the EV, you won’t want anything to do with the gas car.”

        Disagree. I’m not a giant fan of the driving Dynamics of cars weighing more than my F150. I’ve driven em…if you are a fan of Buick 3800s (not knocking them, they are great at swallowing up miles, as are EVs) then you’ll love em. If you love, say your GTI, well you probably won’t.

  • avatar

    VW’s electrical dominance plan reminds me operation Barbarossa. Huge scale of assault, millions of troops, everything is calculated up to the second, over-engineered weapons, no anticipation that something can get wrong, like winter in Russia. Really, what can get wrong?

    If there is a company that able to pull it off it is Tesla. If they did not do that may be there is a reason why?

  • avatar

    Oh well, if this doesn’t pan out they could covert them all into porta potties. And since most of what VW builds is sh*t this would seem like a perfectly natural transition.

  • avatar

    I like the idea but would like a smaller one for my personal use. Capable of charging maybe 2 cars and sitting in the corner of my carport which is remote from the house and unpowered. Solar panels on the carport roof could slowly charge up the device whenever the sun is out and then it can recharge my car quickly and possibly in the dark. Electricity is expensive in Australia but sunshine is plentiful.

  • avatar

    And where will the capital come from to fund this network of uber mensch battery boxes? Each station will initially cost $50K – $100K, plus the expense of moving them around, charging, and maintenance. Never going to happen unless it’s subsidized 125%.

    • 0 avatar

      Well fact is as of part of the settlement they need to build charging stations. So yeah they have to do it someway so in the spirit of German engineering they are doing it the most complex way possible.

  • avatar

    “This seems so stupid. Explain to me again why you wouldn’t just pull in directly to the power grid?”

    Because the power grid can’t handle charging loads at peak demand. Think of it as a water heater. Smoothing out demand on the grid, by pre “warming” the charger.

    It’s still stupid, compared to a cheap Honda generator. Or a Toyota one, mounted under the hood.

  • avatar

    “Then it’s game over for gasoline.”

    Teleportation is game over for gasoline as well.

  • avatar

    come on –
    where’s the efficiency ?
    look at all the coal fired plants –
    transformer losses ? lamination losses ? copper losses ?
    step up losses ? step down losses ? other resistive / leak losses ?
    the worst cars on the market are more efficient –
    any hybrid is far & above these fiascos –
    someone please do the math –

  • avatar

    I live in a condo with a parking garage that doesn’t have a single AC outlet. If I were to buy an EV (the Jaguar I-Pace looks nice) I need convenient access to a charger. I already drive a half-mile to a gas station. It’s probably oxymoronic, but why not install a couple of chargers at gas stations. Even rural areas need a gas station. The stations are already there, everyone already knows where their most-frequented stations are, no more searching for public chargers.

    The proprietor can take advantage of your forced downtime by opening/expanding the convenience store. Sit-down areas and Wi-Fi are obvious additions. The specific gas station I choose has an automatic car wash, something else useful to a lot of urban dwellers.

    • 0 avatar

      You’ve just described a level of routine nuisance that hasn’t existed for ICE owners since gas could only be bought in jars at a general store.

      But at least the purchase was quick so maybe a better analogy would be frequenting a laundromat except that laundros don’t tend to attract armed robbers.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Wouldn’t it be waaaaay cheaper for VW just to work with landlords, property management firms, and municipalities and install outlets?

      • 0 avatar

        The more I think about that the more I like it. Properties could become advertising displays for VW in exchange for hosting a discrete network of power lines paid for by the Germermans.

        Some kind of electronic handshake between EV and outlets could render them untappable by locals for unauthorized use, at least until the hacking community was able to emulate the EV’s part of the handshake.

        This could give VW some real environmental Persilschein with affluent American youngsters.

  • avatar

    The “Well, back in MY day” crowd hates it, but times change. Many people realize that breathing hydrocarbon fumes aren’t healthy for their families, and no longer care about the hotrods of the 50s, etc.

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