Whether that means that Amazon might someday add electric vehicles to an expanding online retail catalogue that includes books, groceries, computer cloud storage, entertainment and other goods isn’t known. The company declined to comment Tuesday. But Amazon is known for pursuing strategies and technology that it thinks its customers might want or need in the future. (The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder.)
The patent comes as the nation is increasingly prepping for autonomous vehicles and environmental advocates are pushing for more infrastructure to support electric vehicles. Both developments suggest a future in which people get where they need to go in self-driving electric vehicles and self-driving electric vehicles get to them with goods and merchandise.
The Sierra Club says in a recent report that even big investor-owned utilities have shown a growing interest in funding the infrastructure for electric vehicles, at least in California. The nonprofit organization says three utilities — Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric — have proposed spending a total of $1 billion to install 10,000 new charging stations in California, where about half of all electric cars are sold.
Virginia just announced that the commonwealth plans to use $14 million from the legal settlement with Volkswagen to build a network of charging stations, the Associated Press reports. In 2016, the Obama administration put up $4.5 billion in Energy Department loan guarantees to build charging networks around the country. The administration recognized that, although electric carmakers have made enormous strides in battery technology that allows people to go long distances without a charge, many people are still reluctant to invest in electric vehicles because of “range anxiety.”
Amazon’s patent — which was flagged by Greentech Media — envisions technology that would allow a person to summon an autonomous recharging vehicle to a rendezvous at a particular location or a range of locations. The roving recharger could be a self-piloting aerial drone or a crewless ground vehicle, the application says.
The recharging vehicle would then dock with the person’s electric vehicle, perhaps in a fixed location or while moving.
“Even in city driving, it’s possible to worry about getting stuck in traffic with a battery running low,” as Greentech Media put it. “Not so if a swarm of helpful battery bots can zip out of the sky and top you off.”
But will it clean the windshield?