Amazon’s new patent: Drones that recharge your EV while you’re driving

Amazon’s new patent: Drones that recharge your EV while you’re driving

By Sooraj Raj

Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles has been growing in dense urban areas such as in California, but most of the rest of the U.S. still has a limited amount. A mobile, mid-drive recharge offers an exciting way around having to search for a charger while on your getaway road trip. Even in cities, there is the possibility of getting stuck in traffic on low battery. But if you’ve got a line up of friendly neighborhood drones to top you off, there’s no issue; a patent application by Amazon for such a technology was recently approved.

Amazon’s patent drawing for the charging drone. Source: Detail from Amazon’s patent

EV charging: A tumultuous field

A 2016 GTM Research report says that EV charging has already seen turbulence with companies going bankrupt and high cost barriers to implementation. The report lists Tesla, Siemens, and General Electric as some of the major players in the charging field.

Since that report, Royal Dutch Shell, an oil and gas major, announced it will be investing smart charging stations, and states and cities have published numerous reports on how to improve charging infrastructure to encourage adoption of electric vehicles.

NextEV, a San Jose-based subsidiary of China’s EV company NIO, also filed a patent application, in May 2017, in the US for a similar Idea. And, a group of scientists at Stanford demonstrated in early 2017 that it was possible to transfer electricity to a moving object nearby, wirelessly; they used an LED lightbulb for the demonstration. But the charging involved only 1-milliwatt of power, too small compared to tens of kilowatts needed for fueling an electric car.

Amazon’s foray into EV charging:

What puts amazon ahead, is the level of its daily interaction with the public — a company which touches nearly all aspects of many lives (especially wealthy urban youth who are likely to be the earliest adopters of electric vehicles). “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with,” founder Jeff Bezos has said. “They’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”

Charging on the go is not a new idea Qualcomm had demonstrated a technology where an EV can charge itself via pads embedded into the road surface. But the system patented by Amazon takes the creativity to a new level with their electric-car charging drone system, which was recently approved and was dug up by Greentech media.

The car end of the equation (and for some reason, a tree as well). Source: Detail from Amazon patent.


The patent, which was filed in June 2014 was granted in October 2017 and it describes a method where an electric vehicle low on battery would contact a central server, which would dispatch a drone with a supplementary battery pack. The drone will read a target atop the car to determine it’s the right one and then would wirelessly communicate with the car to sync up their speeds and locations. Once they meet, the car would deploy a retractable charger, and the drone would plug in to the vehicle, thus providing the requested charging.

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