Gaping gap between EV wireless and plug-in charging technologies
The future of automotive is electric and autonomous. While almost all automakers have set up a roadmap to fully embrace electric vehicles (EV), many of them are now also channeling a good chunk of their investments towards developing autonomous driving technologies. Although real-world application of electrically powered autonomous vehicles is still at a nascent stage, such cars will raise the need for quite a few complementary technologies to support their smooth operations. One such technology is a wireless charging system, also called inductive charging.
Though the segment is not evolving as fast as the plug-in charging ecosystem, it has seen some major developments lately. Earlier this year, wireless charging technology start-up WiTricity acquired Qualcomm's wireless technology platform 'Halo'. The deal will provide WiTricity with access to over 1,500 patents and patent applications related to wireless charging. The acquisition will boost WiTricity's system development capabilities, given that the company now owns the two most widely accepted configurations for EV wireless charging, the circular coil design, used by itself, and the 'Double D' setup, patented and used by Qualcomm Halo. Both designs are used by automakers to charge vehicles. While Qualcomm Halo is used by automakers such as Mercedes-Benz, WiTricity has partnered with OEMs such as Nissan and Hyundai. Last year, BMW's 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid became the first model with a wireless charging system, based on WiTricity technology, to be commercially available.
Several other tier-1 developers have also acquired licenses for the two technologies. Preh and Lumen have access to licenses for Qualcomm Halo's Double D technology, whereas WiTricity has given licenses to companies such as Mahle, Furakawa Electric, Zhejiang VIE Science & Technology, South Korea-based supplier Yura, and China-based Anjie Wireless. The increasing number of license agreements with the tier 1s is a positive indication towards the industry's growing confidence in the technology and its prospects.
Despite the acquisition, WiTricity has said that it would continue to support and advance the 'Double D' technology and "Qualcomm licensees will have the same rights as before, access to the same technology as before". According to David Schatz, part of WiTricity's Global Automotive Business Development team, what technology WiTricity pursues will depend on OEMs and their preferences. "There is no religious devotion to our circular coil technology. Some OEMs may offer both coil technologies driven by technical specification and package restrictions. Car makers may also want proprietary systems and could be more concerned with schedule and costs," Schatz told IHS Markit.
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