Wireless Charging Startup WiTricity To Partner With General Motors

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Originally published on Gas2.

Boston area start-up WiTricity will partner with General Motors to develop wireless charging systems that work with current and future electric car models from The General. Wireless charging is consider to be an essential part of the transition from conventional cars to zero emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy resources because of the greater convenience the technology offers drivers. Toyota has also licensed the WiTricity technology (think WiFi for electricity) and invested in the company in 2011.

WiTricity CEO Alex Gruzen kneels next to a Chevrolet Volt parked over a wireless charging pad.

Instead of having to hook up their cars to a charging cable that may be dirty, covered with ice, or otherwise unpleasant to handle, drivers will be able to simply park their cars over a charging pad and walk away. The pad can even be buried underneath a layer of asphalt or concrete to protect it from the elements and eliminate the need for an electrical cord to power it.

WiTricity was co-founded in 2007 by MIT professor Marin Soljačić, who helped develop the electromagnetic resonance technology that allows electric power to be transferred through the air. The company raised $23 million in an Otctober 2013 round of funding and introduced a wireless phone charging station in 2014.

The WiTricity system can charge at either 7.7 kW or 11 kW of power, although higher power systems are in the works. That may seem paltry compared to the 135 kW power level available at a Tesla Supercharger station or the 150 kW that the consortium behind the CCS charging standard hope to roll our soon. Tesla Motors quietly joined the CCS consortium earlier this year.

High power charging is still critical for those travelling away from home, but the WiTricity systems are more than adequate to meet the needs of most drivers who charge at home or at work. One other technology that will give a boost to wireless charging is the autonomous driving car.

Once cars are able to drive themselves short distances, they could be driven remotely to an available wireless charging location, then moved to another place in the parking lot once charging is complete. Since there is no need to have a person actually connect and disconnect a charging cable, topping up the battery while at work would be as easy as tapping an icon on a smart phone.

Employers would find such a system highly attractive since their employees would no longer have to leave work to go outside and physically move their cars during the work day. It would also reduce the number of charging stations that have to be purchased and installed, since each wireless location would be able to charge many more cars during the day than a conventional charger ever could.

“The electric vehicle has been recognized as central to the future of mobility, and GM has been a leader, making EVs accessible to the broader market. The convenience of wireless charging will help accelerate adoption even further,” says Alex Gruzen, CEO of WiTricity. “Our team is proud to work with GM on this project. Wireless charging for EVs, based on industry standards, is inevitable as we move toward a future of self-driving and autonomous vehicles, and this project brings us one step closer to realizing our vision of a world powered wirelessly.”

Source: Boston Business Journal   Photo credit: WiTricity

Reprinted with permission.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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