Many aspects of the logistics industry have undergone significant changes over the last few decades, but by and large these developments have not extended to the fuel pump. Just as we did half a century ago, drivers still pull up at the service station, hand over a fuel card if they're lucky enough to have one, and waste precious minutes labouring over the petrol pump.
It's a familiar routine and one that we've come to regard as a necessary part of driving a vehicle. However, this could change in the not too distant future.
Is it a worm? Is it a snake?
No, it's Tesla's new tentacle-like charger that can connect to an electric vehicle and supply its battery with power. Amazingly, the charger is capable of doing all this completely automatically. As we can see from the video below, the robotic arm contorts into position before locating the car's charging port and plugging itself in.
Charger prototype finding its way to Model S. https://t.co/L9E4MR642G
— Tesla Motors (@TeslaMotors) August 6, 2015
There's something vaguely menacing about the pump's movements, yet it's nevertheless a fascinating look at how advances in the fuel industry may impact both everyday drivers and fleet managers.
One key criticism of electric cars is the lengthy two to eight hours it takes to recharge the vehicle's battery. While Tesla's solution may not be able to speed up the energy transfer, it could at least make it a simpler process.
A more convenient future
As Amanda Kooser of Cnet pondered, perhaps one day the automatic charger will be commonplace in our homes and garages. We would simply park and get on with our everyday lives, knowing the car would be automatically juiced up and ready to go the next time we needed it.
The convenience factor could also be of benefit to fleet managers operating in harsh climates, where it's dangerous or uncomfortable for drivers to get out of their vehicles when refuelling. An automatic car charger would allow drivers to stay in the comfort and safety of the car's cockpit.
Tesla's charger is still very much in the testing phase, so it may be some time before we see it at our local service stations. It's also only compatible with the Model S, though if it proves successful it's reasonable to assume we could see similar chargers for other electric cars, too.
Despite these limitations, Tesla's latest offering provides a fascinating glimpse of what the future might have in store for fleet managers here in New Zealand.