“We landed a big fish, about as big as it gets,” said Eric Giler, the CEO of wireless EV charging company WiTricity. Actually two big fish, because in addition to Toyota — whose licensing of the company’s magnetic resonance technology was announced Thursday morning — the company is also the little-known wireless provider for the Infiniti version of the LEAF, known as the LE.
Imagine driving your car into the garage, and having it instantly start "refueling," without your having to do a thing. Now consider the possibility of, instead of plugging in your smart phone to recharge it, simply dropping it on a pad and have the process start. That's the promise of wireless charging, which is finally getting commercialized. WiTricity has also worked with Apple, so maybe that will result in some cool charging applications for the company's devices.
According to Giler, who points to an account in Charged magazine, Toyota will begin working on installing WiTricity wireless charging into its cars next year. WiTricity’s approach is different from standard inductive charging—magnetic resonance, Giler explained. It’s biggest advantage is not needing precise alignment between the transmitter on the ground and the receiver on the car. That’s a big advantage for carmakers, who have been exploring various electronic aids to ensure that fallible drivers can line up closely with the pads.
“If you can park without hitting the garage doors, you’re going to get a charge with our system,” Giler said. “Basically, if you can get the car into the garage at all, it will make a connection. You have a lot of flexibility, both in the sideways direction and also vertically.” That's how it all works below.
WiTricity said in a release, “Toyota has identified this technology as a key differentiator in the marketplace because of its seamless operation and the convenience factor it offers the vehicle owners."
A key question will be if WiTricity can keep losses to a minumum. The industry standard is about 90 percent efficiency, or a 10 percent transmission loss.
Toyota has already explored wireless charging in the Avalon — for cell phones, using the increasingly popular Qi protocol. The car has an optional pad that will charge any phone dropped on it. But Giler pointed out that the Avalon system uses multiple inductive coins, not a magnetic resonance system. Magnetic resonance offers the tantalizing possibility of being able to recharge multiple devices at once--because its generating field is larger than with traditional wireless.
I first disclosed WiTricity’s relationship with Nissan in an earlier MNN column. The release date of the LE is unclear. Nissan had originally said 2014, but then it delayed the car as it waited for new developments in wireless charging.
Said Giler (above, lighting a bulb through his head). “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 did not issue its own statement.
Here's a video look at WiTricity's technology, in this case for cellphones. The tech guys are very interested: