Two of Apple's last Patent Applications for 2021 covered Various Modular Charging Systems for Vehicles & a Future Game Controller
Two of Apple's last Patent Applications for 2021 covered various Modular Charging Systems for future Vehicles and a possible future Game Controller.
Modular Charging Systems for Vehicles
In mid-November Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple appears to be accelerating Project Titan and reportedly Aiming to develop a high-end autonomous vehicle." These autonomous vehicles will of course be Electric Vehicles and one of the last patent applications published by the U.S. Patent Office for Apple was titled "Modular Charging Systems for Vehicles."
One of the issues with charging an electric vehicle is all of the different types of charging (e.g., alternating current and direct current power sources), locations (home, work, destination, or road trip stop), and power levels (e.g., 1.2 kW, 7 kW, 10 kW, 20 kW, 150 kW, or 350 kW). An on-board charger (OBC) (e.g., a 7kW charger or a 20kW charger) is installed in the vehicle and allows a user to plug in to standard infrastructure, and if that is enough for the user's needs at home, allows for a relatively inexpensive installation in at the home to accommodate.
Users who want more power, and faster charging times, at home (e.g., 10-20 kW), and who have a power infrastructure including an alternating current circuit breaker panel that supports it, can also install an off-board charger at the home (e.g., mounted on a wall) which is configured to convert additional power (e.g., an additional 13 kW) for charging a battery of the vehicle.
The off-board charger can allow the vehicle battery to be charged concurrently with both alternating current and direct current. For example, the off-board charger may be connected to one or more wall outlets that provide alternating current power (e.g., 240 Volts AC at 60 Hz).
For example, a charging plug interface (e.g., including a cord) of the off-board charger may route alternating current to the on-board charger of the vehicle (e.g., providing 7 kW of charging power), while at the same time utilizing the output of the off-board charger's alternating current to direct current converter to provide power (e.g., an additional 13 kW) to the vehicle as direct current though the charging plug interface. Such a setup may provide the benefit of utilizing the OBC (e.g., a 7kW charger) that a vehicle operator has already purchased, and reducing the size and cost of the external charger used to achieve a given charging rate.
For example, one of the chargers (e.g., the off-board charger) may operate in current control mode and one of the chargers (e.g., the on-board charger) may operate in voltage control mode, which may allow the chargers to share their output current into the battery of the vehicle. In some implementations, a charging communications system of the vehicle controls both the alternating current based on-board charger and the direct current output of the off-board charger.
An on-board should be limited to conserve space and weight in the vehicle. The off-board charger supports a charging mode for the vehicle that allows it to concurrently utilize direct current and alternating current through a charging plug interface to charge its battery. Control signaling between the vehicle and the off-board charger (e.g., through conductors of the charging plug interface or via wireless communications) may be used to allow the off-board charger to indicate its available charging capabilities to the vehicle and to allow the vehicle to select what charging mode(s) will be applied to charge the vehicle battery.
For example, J1772 protocol negotiation between the charger and a battery management system of the vehicle may be utilized. This technique may be used to determine what devices are connected and then what charging mode should be used.
In some implementations, a solar cell in a home installation is used to provide power to charge the vehicle battery. For example, the solar cell may provide power to the vehicle battery via a direct current to direct current converter that outputs through the charging plug interface. For example, the solar cell may be used to charge an external battery connected to the off-board charger, and the external battery can later be used to quickly charge the vehicle battery via direct current through the charging plug interface.
For example, adding a bidirectional direct current to direct current converter in the implementation may support very fast home charging (e.g., 25-100+kW) from the external battery (e.g., a home energy storage) to the vehicle. Making the direct current to direct current converter bidirectional may allow the vehicle and the home energy storage to be used in tandem in the event of a power outage. Transfer of energy from a home energy storage to a vehicle may allow flexible charging times and/or fast charging at home. Transfer of energy from a vehicle to a home energy storage may provide increased capacity of the energy buffer for blackouts and time-of-use optimization.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a block diagram of an example of a system for modular charging of a vehicle battery; FIG. 5 is a flow chart of an example of a process for charging a vehicle battery using a variety of power sources including solar, coordinated by an external charger.
Apple's patent covers a battery charger for autonomous vehicles, trucks, boats and an aircraft.
For more technical details, review Apple's patent application 20210402888. One of the inventors listed on the patent application is Peteris Augenbergs, a 14-year veteran and Director of Apple Special Projects Group.
Future Game Controller
While Macs, iPad, iPhone and Apple TV can work with wireless game controllers from Sony and Microsoft, Apple is working on a possible game controller of their own. Apple won a patent for their work on a future game controller in July. The patent focuses on the "thumbstick user inputs" as noted in our graphic above.
Apple has updated their patent, according to a continuation patent published by the U.S. Patent Office last week. Apple has added 20 new patent claims and altered the name of the patent from "Thumbstick user input device and related methods," to "User Input Device and Related Methods" dropping "Thumbstick." While Thumbstick was listed 31 times in the original patent claims, the latest update never references "Thumbstick" once. Obviously, Apple Legal knew referencing "Thumbstick" in the filing could have triggered an issue down the road and eliminated it.
14 of the new patent claims cover "The user input device" with the remaining 6 claims covering "A method." To review Apple's 20 new patent claims, see patent 20210402290.