General Motors Co. says that Powermat USA will design cordless charging systems for use inside future GM vehicles.
Also, the automaker’s venture capital subsidiary, GM Ventures, will invest $5 million in the wireless charging technology startup to accelerate development and help the business expand globally.
Powermat CEO Ran Poliakine declined to comment on how large a stake GM is taking in his company but said it is more of a symbolic investment.
“The commercial agreement, which is not specified, is clearly a much larger number,” Poliakine said. “This is an agreement under which Powermat technology will be embedded in the design of GM cars, enabling wireless charging for the driver.”
18 months away
GM says the charging systems could be inside the Chevrolet Volt within 18 months. A Volt with the technology embedded will be on display at this week’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
“Imagine a mat or shelf where you could put your iPhone, your Droid or other personal device and charge it automatically while you commute to work, run errands or as you’re driving on a family vacation,” said Micky Bly, GM’s executive director of electronic systems and hybrids, in a release. “The Chevy Volt will be one of the first applications, but we intend to expand it across our vehicle portfolio.”
Powermat, a private suburban Detroit company founded in 2007, already sells wireless chargers for personal use. To charge a smartphone, iPod or BlackBerry, a person must attach a case with a small receiver to the device. The receiver allows the device to communicate with a power mat, charging the battery without cords through induction.
Jon Lauckner, who helped create the Volt concept car and is now president of GM Ventures, said the technology will have widespread appeal.
“We first developed the Volt concept car in 2006,” Lauckner said in the release. “The intent was to revolutionize every aspect of the car, not just the propulsion system. We had something like this in mind, even then.”
Poliakine said he sees a future in which the technology would apply to electric vehicles, not just consumer electronic devices inside those vehicles. In that vision, simply parking an electric vehicle in the garage would charge the battery, without anyone having to plug in a cord.
“As early as 2012, GM will have potentially most or all of their platforms with this technology embedded inside in a way that users can power and charge devices in the car,” Poliakine said. “But the long-term goal is eventually the car itself will be charged using this technology.”