This clever robotic EV charger will find a parking spot, reserve it for you, then sit behind you to charge your EV, cheerfully displaying ads all the way as another revenue stream for carpark operators. It’s a nifty idea, but we do wonder how Ziggy will cope with the brutally competitive, openly hostile environment of a crowded mall car park on Christmas Eve.
The Ziggy charging robot is a project by EV Safe Charge, aimed at giving parking garages a super-easy, super-flexible and cost-effective way to add EV charge spots without having to hang chargers next to every park.
Each Ziggy is a rolling battery bank of indeterminate capacity, with a headlight, taillight, cameras on all sides and a band of safety sensors around its waist. It rocks four wheels, all of which can steer, and an electric drivetrain that allows it to move around the parking facility. Presumably, they’ll get around autonomously, but there’s also no reason why you couldn’t run them by remote control from an operations desk.
EV drivers will book a Ziggy charge in advance, and the system will dispatch a robot to go sit in a vacant parking space to wait and reserve the spot as the app guides the driver to the meet-up. They’ve got enough ground clearance to get over speed bumps, and a low-enough center of gravity that they won’t topple over on ramps, so they should be good to go in most parking garages. Once you arrive, Ziggy will nip out of its park to let you in, then once you’re parked, it’ll roll in and sit close behind your vehicle.
From there, things get a bit last-century as you hop out of your car, then grab the charge cable with your own human hand and plug it in yourself, like some sort of savage. This is in direct contrast with Tesla’s autonomous noodle charger, and a more utilitarian-looking robotic arm solution from the University of Graz, which are both capable of poking their own plugs into your socket. Doing this manually might be too much work for some, and that’s OK.
From there, you’ll head off to go shopping, while Ziggy tops up your car from its onboard batteries, which are presumably big enough to give two or three cars a full charge at a decent rate. When you come back, you can unplug, pay for the service through the app, and your Ziggy will chug back to whence it came.
Oh, and lest we forget that EV Safe Charge’s primary target market here is parking garage operators hoping to make yet more money than they can renting out slabs of empty concrete for several times the minimum wage a human can command, Ziggy comes equipped with great big screens on each side, allowing operators to place touchscreen information services on these things, or, more likely, to sell ads. Yippee.
It’s all a very neat solution in the video below. Mind you, if and when the rubber hits the road on these kinds of things, we can definitely see a few issues cropping up, beyond just the fact that different cars use different charge standards.
For example, it can be infuriatingly difficult to find parking spots in crowded car parks, and there’s every chance Ziggies will find it just as hard to nab a spot as you or I might. Even if they’re dispatched to spots that look empty on CCTV feeds, they’ll take a minute to get there. Frankly, that’s a minute too long when I think about my experiences at our local hellhole of a mall, where spaces can be so rare that drivers resort to following people with shopping bags back to their vehicles, and the mildest-looking grandma will shout abuse out the window at you if you confound such a stalking attempt by strolling between parked cars where she can’t follow. What then, if Ziggy can’t find a spot? Will it simply roam the concrete wasteland, forlorn and hopeless like the rest of us?
Then there’s the way it sits behind the car as you charge. Now look, I don’t know about your part of town, but where I’m from, parking garages aren’t designed to give drivers what I’d call a luxurious amount of space to work with. Indeed, just last Friday I spent a solid five minutes trying to get my car out of a tight park in a multi-story. I’m not too proud to admit, if the car behind me had a robot sitting behind it, I might still be in that parking spot now, inching back and forth like Austin Powers making a hasty 50-point turn.
When I picture a Ziggy cheerfully sliding into the sole available parking spot before I get there, or blocking me into a park, while remorselessly flashing ads at me, showing the sumptuous creamy beverages and stylish clothes I could be rubbing all over myself right now if there wasn’t a goddamned autonomous EV charging robot there ruining my day, and… Well, perhaps I’m a little quick to anger, but I’m not exactly filled with goodwill towards Ziggies in that moment.
Either way, assuming these details are taken care of, Ziggy does look like a potentially promising way to increase a facility’s EV charging capabilities without having to rope off dedicated EV parks or plumb in chunky wiring all over the place. Electric vehicle sales are rising every year, and as this tide continues to rise, solutions like this – if it works – could certainly find themselves a market. Check out a video below.