Although both AAA and VW could consider their products “mobile charging stations,” the technology and usage are very different. Whereas emergency-minded AAA equipped its trucks with onboard generators to fill just enough juice to get the EV drivers to a real charging station, VW is proposing something more akin to a popup charging station stacked with their own fills of battery power.
Volkswagen likens the concept to the “power banks” we use to charge our phones and smart devices on the go; just on a much larger scale. According to VW, the boxes are based on the battery pack from the company’s Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB). Because of this, the boxes can easily be scaled up or down and can reuse old batteries from EVs that are no longer functioning up to par.
VW is mum on the technical features of the battery pack, but it says the mobile towers will be equipped with up to 360 kWh of storage, enough to service 15 vehicles. Four cars can charge at the same time on the box, but only two can connect via DC, while the other two use AC. Using DC, the unit can quick charge up to 100 kW. VW says average charging time is about 17 minutes, but it does not specify to what level that time period charges the cars.
Should an access point be available, the box can also plug directly into the grid. This would allow constant recharging of up to 30 kW through alternating current and essentially create four charging points.
A more appropriate name for this technology would be temporary charging stations. Although the product can technically function entirely within itself, theses boxes are not going to be moved from place to place to place in a single day. Volkswagen mentions they would be perfect for a city attempting to figure out where to place permanent charging stations. Drop a few of these boxes down, test the response and use for a week, collect the data, then put them in a different spot.
An even better use is for events. Should there be a large gathering in a location that cannot support the infrastructure required for charging multiple electric vehicles, these portable charging stations are an easy solution.
There are already a couple companies that have products similar to what VW is proposing. EV Safe Charge has a product called EV Charge Mobile that provides charging for DC fast chargers and Level 2 chargers for all EV manufacturers. Freewire Technologies also has a box called the Mobi with Level 2 charging and soon-to-release DC fast charging.
At this exact moment, the infrastructure for the impending tidal wave of electric vehicles is nowhere near where it needs to be. Ideas such as this Volkswagen battery tower, however, show that manufacturers will find a way to make it work with stop-gaps and temporary problem-solving. VW says the first pilot packs will be set up in the first half of 2019, with expansion expected in 2020.