Automakers drive development of in-vehicle wireless charging, analyst says

June 22, 2011 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Global automakers including Audi, General Motors and Volkswagen are putting their horsepower behind wireless in-vehicle charging, a study from market researcher IHS iSuppli states. The technology allows motorists to recharge the batteries of their mobile devices while on the road.

According to IHS iSuppli analyst Stacey Oh, conventional approaches to charging mobile devices in cars, such as plugging into a cigarette lighter, 12-volt charger or USB port, are too inconvenient for most consumers. “Wireless charging, however, allows car drivers and passengers to recharge batteries simply by setting their cell phone or other mobile device on a flat pad or shelf, providing a far more handy solution when on the go.”

The automotive segment represents only a tiny portion of the global wireless charging market, which is set to soar this year to $885.8 million, up more than sevenfold from $123.9 million in 2010. The overall wireless charging market during the next several years is expected to be dominated by product-specific solutions for mobile phones. However, wireless charging solutions in cars still represent a significant growth opportunity for automakers and their suppliers.

Audi has demonstrated a device along with Qualcomm and Peiker that allowed for the wireless charging of smart phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other devices. The wireless charging solution would be sold as an accessory by Audi.

Meanwhile, at Volkswagen's Electronics Research Laboratory in Silicon Valley, research is being conducted on a center console that can wirelessly charge smart phones, similar to the power mats now on the market for home use. The project, in development with Qualcomm, reportedly could use magnetic near-field resonance to power rear-seat entertainment or ambient lighting systems as well.

GM and wireless charging product maker Powermat in January announced a $5 million investment from the new GM Ventures subsidiary, which could put Powermat inductive charging in many US GM cars as soon as mid-2012.

Powermat already sells wireless chargers for personal use. In most instances when charging a smart phone, the Powermat system requires a case to be attached with a small receiver to the device. The receiver then allows the device to communicate with a power mat, and through induction, charges the