Toyota signs wireless charging deal with WiTricity

A Prius that can be charged wirelessly is in the works

WiTricity, a creator of wireless charging systems, has signed an intellectual property (IP) license agreement with Toyota Motor Corp. Under the agreement, Toyota is expected to offer wireless charging on future rechargeable plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric vehicles.

WiTricity does not manufacture its own wireless charging products, but instead licenses the technology to others for manufacturing.

David Schatz, director of business development at WiTricity, demonstrates to Computerworld how a new prototype wireless charger called "Prodigy" can power a device from about 10 inches away.

Similarly, under license from WiTricity, Toyota will enlist third-party charging system suppliers to build the charging systems for their cars.

"WiTricity's mission is to make wireless charging available as widely as possible, and this announcement is a significant step toward accomplishing that mission," WiTricity CEO Eric Giler, said in a statement. "We envision a world in which wireless charging accelerates the adoption of clean, green electrified vehicles. To have Toyota, the world's leading carmaker, licensing our intellectual property, underscores the importance of the technology."

Toyota has been an investor in WiTricity since 2011.

Toyota has already said it plans to add wireless charging to the Prius line of hybrid cars. Satoshi Ogiso, managing officer for the Toyota, said in August that wireless charging will be part of a future Prius Plug-In model in 2014. The company will be testing the wireless charging system in Japan, the U.S. and Europe.

"We have been listening very carefully to Prius PHV owners over the past two years...and are considering their requests for additional all-electric range," Ogiso said. "We have also heard from these owners, that they would like a more convenient charging operation. In response, we are developing a new wireless/inductive charging system that produces resonance between an on-floor coil and an onboard coil to recharge the battery without the fuss of a cable."

WiTricity is one of several companies producing wireless vehicle charging technology, though none have as yet been widely adopted.

WiTricity's charging technology offers up to 25kW, with the company's systems for passenger cars outputting from 3.3kW to 6kW while systems for fleets and small buses are in the 10kW to 25kW range.

WiTricity claims it takes the same amount of time to charge a vehicle wirelessly as it would by plugging it in, which in a passenger car with a dead battery is nominally four hours.

However, one emerging technology is fast-charging systems, which offer a high-voltage DC charge instead of a slower AC charge. With a fast charging station, a vehicle can be fully charged in as little as 20 minutes, according to Hayfield. "This could be a major step toward EVs becoming generally equivalent to (gas-powered) vehicles when it comes to refueling," Hayfield said.

One fast-charging standard designed for electric vehicles is CHAdeMO. The major proponents of the technology are Japanese automakers, including Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi, as well as Japanese industrial giants such as Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

According to IHS Automotive, there are as many as 2,445 CHAdeMO fast chargers in operation and more than 57,000 CHAdeMO-compatible EVs around the world, which accounts for 80% of all EVs on the road. The highest concentration of EVs comes from Japan in the form of the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEv and Honda Fit EV, among others.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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