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Automatic conductive charger connection

Electric vehicle propulsion is clean and efficient but is also hampered by the low battery energy storage capacity when compared to combustible fuels used in conventional vehicles. The solution to this problem is frequent charging, or even better – continuous charging while driving.

The capacity of a vehicle to operate on “electricity only” depends on how often it can stop for charging, how long time it can charge and at what power it is charged. For private cars that are used for e.g. commuting to/from work, it is often enough to charge nighttime at low power for many hours. For e.g. a city delivery truck it may be necessary to charge many times a day, for short time and at high power. This in reality requires a rather big cable and connector (for the power level) to be handled many times a day, maybe dirty or frozen/stiff – not so attractive for the driver. A solution to this problem has emerged over the last years – inductive chargers. With inductive charging, no cable is needed, only a parking precision within a tolerance of a few centimeters above a charging pad on the ground.

The cost of such inductive charging systems is relatively high; the efficiency is relatively low (80-90%) and the size big, all compared to a conductive “plug”. The attractiveness of the inductive charger solution is not in the inductive principle itself, but in the lack of need of manual intervention when connecting. The question is. – Can a conductive connection give the same freedom of manual intervention with the help of a mechatronic solution?
This question is what this project is set to answer.

Goal
1. Inventory of charging power/time requirements as well as physical space limitations for different vehicle types.
2. Development of a proposal of a possible mechatronic system for connecting a high power cable to the electricity grid. The connector is allowed to be a dedicated charging connector (designed especially for automated connection). It is expected to automatically identify the presence of the mating connector part and also automatically perform the connection, when the two mating members are less than a given distance apart.
a. The automatic mating distance is expected to be < 0.5 meters.
b. The system is expected to connect to a 3-phase 400 V AC grid and in the connection provide at least the three phases, protective earth and 2 conductive communication channels.

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