Volkswagen Is Bringing Smartphone-Like Portable Chargers to Electric Cars

Volkswagen wants to bring the portable battery to the electric car in a big way. The automaker announced on Friday plans to start series production of its charging stations in 2020, which will enable event holders and parking lot owners to place a giant pack on the floor to enable four cars to charge at once.

“The mobile charging stations are a decisive step toward an efficient network of charging points,” Thomas Schmall, chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen Group Components, said in a statement. “They can be set up anywhere as required — with or without connection to the power supply.”

The charger, first announced last month, is essentially a large-scale version of the battery packs used to give smartphones some extra juice. The system stores up to 360 kilowatt-hours, enough to charge 15 electric cars, and uses fast charging technology up to 100 kilowatts to gets cars back on the road in around 17 minutes. It’s capable of charging up to four cars at once. Operators can choose to switch out the pack when it’s depleted, or plug it into a standard grid connection to create a charging point with little installation requirements.

The company announced on Friday plans to start a pilot project this summer in Wolfsburg, Germany, before manufacturing the first batches at the Hanover plant next year.

Volkswagen's power bank in action.
Volkswagen's power bank in action.

The project forms part of Volkswagen’s wider electric car strategy. The chargers will be based on the modular electric toolkit, also designed to power a range of its upcoming vehicles. Two vehicles announced under this chassis include the ID Crozz, a concept vehicle unveiled last year, and a version of the ID Buzz hippie van concept. Volkswagen is spending $800 million to get its Tennessee plant ready to produce electric vehicles.

Because the charge point shares the toolkit as these cars, it can form part of the recycling process. When Volkswagen replaces a vehicle’s battery, it can complete an analysis to determine whether it would be suitable for a new lease of life inside one of these stations.

The electric car community has worked to ensure others can get on the road again, like the Tesla owners that built a charging station to help users make it to the soccer world cup in Moscow. Volkswagen’s facilities could change the dynamic further, enabling event holders to provide a convenient way to get going without worrying about local infrastructure.

Media via VW, Volkswagen