15 November 2011

Will Wireless Vehicle Charging Become Like EZPass?

A rather poor diagram of inductive charging.Image via Wikipedia
A rather poor diagram of inductive charging.

Qualcomm, long a leader in the wireless and mobile space, is expanding into in the electric vehicle (EV) charging market with its acquisition last week of HaloIPT.

The acquisition, reportedly $70 million, has some in the EV charging space scratching their heads. Not because of Qualcomm's interest, but because they went after such a small player in the space.

HaloITP developed its wireless electric car charging technology out of the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Wireless inductive charging, a process explained here allows an electric vehicle to drive over or near a mat that provides a charge without plugging in.

I've written about the need for and benefits of wireless EV charging technologies previously on this blog and, in the interest of full disclosure, I've done some advisory work with one company, Momentum Dynamics of Malvern, Pennsylvania.

According to sources close to Momentum, the company has already bested Halo, which had been doing 7,200 watts, achieving 30,000 watts. That's the level of power needed for commercial vehicles, which is Momentum's target market, and almost 10 times more powerful than WiTricity and Evatran can transmit 3,300 watts (more or less the capability of a low-powered Level 2 plug-in charger).

Momentum has been regularly getting 10,000 watts with greater than 90 percent efficiency. They are so efficient, my source tells me, "you can keep your fingers on them and barely detect that they are warm."

Toyota and GM are investor-partners in WiTricity and Powermat, respectively, and Nissan, meanwhile, is reportedly working on its own wireless charging technology. And Google tested Evatran's technology earlier this year.

With a big wireless player like Qualcomm moving into the space, is it only a matter of time before wireless EV charging becomes EZ and as ubiquitous as wireless toll collecting?

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