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The key to true automation: wireless charging

01 July 2024

The automated guided vehicles (AGV) industry is becoming increasingly competitive with AGVs tailored to the needs of material handling operations. But this competitive situation is also matched by the broad options that AGV manufacturers can provide to differentiate themselves based on the energy-related capabilities of their AGV equipment, says Enersys.

MARKET PRESSURES ranging from fluctuating energy costs to sustainability requirements are driving power system advancements such as maintenance-free Lithium-ion and Thin Plate Pure Lead battery technologies, energy management tools and more. These innovations provide extraordinary opportunities for AGV OEMs to differentiate themselves by enhancing overall end-user efficiency. Among these solutions are wireless charging systems, which will be the next major step forward in warehouse productivity when it comes to AGVs.

While current approaches for charging, such as battery changing, manual plug-ins or “hot shoe” systems have been acceptable to-date, they fall short when it comes to modern operations, labour challenges and the promise of true automation. This is because each method still requires some level of human intervention for charging activity. 

Though human involvement is clearly needed for battery changes and manual plug-ins, “hot shoe” systems appear to automate the process to a certain extent. However, “hot shoes” still involve mechanical connections between the charger and AGV which require routine cleaning, maintenance and even replacement, not to mention the human intervention and costs that accompany it. Failing to maintain these connections can also impact everything from safety to overall charging efficiency and duration of charging periods.

Wireless charging replaces traditional charging methods - providing a fully automated charging operation that eliminates the human maintenance and contact wear associated with physical connections between the AGV battery and charger. This provides AGV OEMs a powerful differentiator versus their competitors based on critical operational concerns for end-customers. 

For starters, if cutting charging system costs aren’t enough, the space-saving design of wireless chargers, devoid of long charging cables and extra “hot shoe” footprint, free up valuable floor space and provide additional flexibility for placement throughout the facility. Since they often work in tandem, this flexibility helps AGV OEMs optimise the routing of the AGV units for missions, while also enabling end customers to better optimise the overall layout of their facility.  

EnerSys has been a recognised global leader in both battery and charger technology for decades – developing safe and effective industrial power solutions for customers in both traditional and automated applications. 

As a leader in batteries and chargers across material handling applications, EnerSys is also uniquely positioned to provide a single source for your entire material handling fleet – whether it’s automated or human-driven. They provide the widest selection of battery technologies for AGVs and are the only battery manufacturer to offer two separate maintenance-free battery technologies for material handling applications.

The company’s latest innovation for automated applications is their recently launched NexSys AIR wireless charger, which is designed to handle a range of AGVs, charging schedules and facility placements - ensuring more flexibility and reliability for automated operations. 

NexSys AIR wireless charger units can charge multiple battery types and AGV equipment – giving operations more flexibility to pick the right equipment and power source to optimise efficiency across facilities and AGV fleet operations. 

For warehouse and material handling operations, investing in wireless charging to further enhance the efficiency of AGV fleets could be key in fulfilling the true promise of automation - eliminating costs associated with human involvement for the charging process and maintenance associated with physical charging connections. 

For AGV OEMs, wireless charging offers the possibility to be one step ahead of competitors by including it as part of their turnkey system offering.

There is a broad array of choices when it comes to powering AGV fleets. EnerSys can help both end-users and AGV OEMs choose wisely. 

For more information, visit www.enersys.com