A Revolutionary Charging Method for Mobile Robots

Subscribe To Download This Insight

By George Chowdhury | 2Q 2024 | IN-7294

“Power-as-a-Service” company CaPow has created a method to wirelessly power mobile robots via electricity transmission and supercapacitors. The current standard for charging inhibits potential productivity gains for mobile robots; new wireless charging methodologies could unlock considerable value for stakeholders.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.


Behold, Perpetual Motion Machines!


As the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) market continues to grow at pace, one operational issue continues to dog the technology: power. Mobile robots spend around a quarter of their time in a charging dock requiring stakeholders to increase Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) by purchasing larger fleets to compensate for charging machines, alongside forfeiting an average of 20 square feet of floor space for charging infrastructure and access. Many innovators present market offerings to assuage this lost time; but now, one solution might have solved it all together. Israeli company CaPow has developed a method to charge mobile robots while in operation by leveraging wireless electricity transfer and super capacitors.

CaPow’s Genesis product consists of movable charging mats that can be strategically placed along common mobile robot routes. The robots are fitted with components including a super capacitor and receiving antenna that captures electricity directly transmitted from the charging mat—allowing the capacitor to charge in seconds. The charged capacitor then feeds the robot’s motor and recharges its battery—a much longer process than charging a capacitor—simultaneously. CaPow offers the capability of powering mobile robots entirely via the onboard capacitor, doing away with conventional lithium-ion batteries entirely. Proprietary transmitter/receiver technology enables rapid signal lock and direct electricity transfer, creating safe and commercially viable wireless electricity transmission.

In September 2023, CaPow signed a partnership with JLC Robotics to incorporate wireless charging technology into the company’s Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs). CaPow is also currently engaged in several Proofs of Concept (PoCs) and trial deployments with other mobile robotics owners, including a Tier One U.S.-based automotive manufacturer. CaPow has designs on scaling its enterprise via a “Power-as-a-Service” revenue model. CaPow’s go-to-market strategy takes two forms: 1) the company offers partnerships with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), incorporating wireless charging capacity into mobile robots at the design level; and 2) CaPow also provides retrofitting capabilities directly to warehouse managers and other mobile robot stakeholders.

The Benefits of Super Capacitor Charging Could Be Widely Received


Existing innovators attempt to address charging challenges by leveraging methodologies, including swappable lithium-ion batteries (Green Cubes Technology); wireless induction charging stations (WiBotic), allowing for misalignment at charging docks; and electrified rail infrastructure for continuously powering AGVs. Although each methodology brings productivity gains, wireless electricity transmission appears to trump them all. Swappable batteries are expensive and require complex engineering or added downtime when it comes to performing the swap; wireless charging (via induction) still requires static charging infrastructure and downtime; and charge-delivering rails nullify the flexibility of the AMR form factor.

ABI Research forecasts that shipments for mobile robotics—notably within the Third-Party Logistics (3PL) and warehousing verticals—will grow from 550,000 shipments in 2023 to over 3 million per year by 2030. Correspondingly, the Total Addressable Market (TAM) for mobile robots is forecast to exceed US$100 billion by the end of the decade, presenting a lucrative opportunity for companies offering pivotal technologies with a high attach rate. Due to significant cost saving and efficiency gains, wireless, in-motion charging has the potential to become the standard for powering mobile robots of all form factors.

Supercapacitors as the Universal Standard


The current standard of powering robots entirely by lithium-ion batteries and static charging stations is inefficient and costly; rethinking powering paradigms is critical for stakeholders to fully realize the potential of mobile robots. Losing around 25% of an individual AMR’s potential operational time due to charging necessitates a larger fleet of robots to compensate, driving up Capital Expenditure (CAPEX)—this is compounded by overhead costs for charging infrastructure floor space, battery end-of-life expenses, and battery maintenance/replacement. Further, using a finite resource with a vulnerable supply chain to power the next industrial revolution leaves adopters exposed to unnecessary risk, while increasing their carbon footprint. Super capacitor power—doing away with batteries altogether—provides less energy and will require more regular recharging; however, this is easily achieved within controlled environments where mobile robots traverse common routes such as warehouses and manufacturing plants.

As robotics uptake accelerates and autonomous machines penetrate new verticals, finding new use cases and standardized infrastructure for power would streamline and simplify deployment. Form factors including drones, AMRs, and humanoids can all benefit from rapid super capacitor charging, even if only to then charge their onboard lithium-ion batteries. ABI Research believes that super capacitor charging will become the ubiquitous practice for mobile robot operation within the next 5 years. Companies currently deploying large fleets of mobile robots or planning adoption should consider the benefits and CAPEX/Operational Expenditure (OPEX) savings achievable through supercapacitor charging paradigms, even in their current commercially available form.