Top automakers set to offer in-vehicle mobile wireless charging

Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, Toyota, Jeep choose Qi standard for its vehicles; tech to be in multiple 2014 models

Automakers representing 30% of the world's vehicle production plan to make wireless charging available in various models by next year.

Earlier this year, the Consumer Electronics for Automotive (CE4A) consortium, a working group of car manufacturers promoting mobile device interface standards, chose the Qi wireless charging standard.

The CE4A group includes Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche, and Volkswagen, each of which plan to add wireless charging to vehicles in 2014.

The 2014 models of the Jeep Cherokee and Toyota Prius and Avalon already offer optional in-vehicle Qi wireless charging.

wireless charging
The Qi wireless charging station in the 2014 Toyota Avalon

The Qi (pronounced "chee") standard, developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), enables inductive or pad-style charging and short-distance (1.5cm or less) magnetic resonance charging. The Qi specifications are supported by 166 companies, including LG Electronics, Sony, Nokia and Verizon Wireless. The Qi standard is based on the physical principle of electromagnetic induction, which uses two coils - a transmitter and receiver -- to transfer electricity.

CE4A considered using several wireless charging methods, including Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), before choosing Qi, it said.

The Jeep Cherokee will offer a factory installed an optional Qi wireless charging pad that's located in the center console. The charging pad, which includes technology developed by Leggett & Platt, is part of Jeep's optional Uconnect 8.4 package. To charge a Qi-compatible device, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC Droid DNA, or Nokia Lumia 920, customers simply place it in the middle console.

Peter Hoehne, vice president of sales and marketing at the Leggett & Platt Automotive Group, said his company chose the Qi specification for its products because of its wide industry acceptance and its proven ability to work. Leggett & Platt is a member of WPC.

"Already in the states there have been 35 phones released over past couple years with Qi inside them or in a manufacturer's back cover with Qi inside. Globally, there are over 60 phones with Qi," Hoehne said.

Leggett & Platt, a maker of automotive seats and other interior car equipment, has so far created a wireless charging station for the front arm rest of a Jeep Cherokee and the rear arm rest in the SsangYong Chairman, a Korean-made luxury vehicle.

The Qi wireless charging station in the Jeep Cherokee
The Qi wireless charging station in the Jeep Cherokee

There are more than 200 mobile devices that use the Qi standard for wireless charging, including Google's Nexus 7 tablet and smartphones such as Samsung's Galaxy S4, Nokia's Lumia 1020, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX, and Google Nexus 4.

"We're working with other automobile manufacturers, so I know there are more companies beyond the 30% [who produce all cars worldwide] that have come out publicly," Hoehne added.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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