Wireless EV Startup WiTricity Acquires Qualcomm Halo

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【Summary】WiTricity’s cordless vision for EV chargers has hit a major milestone. The deal includes access to more than 1,500 cutting-edge patents, which could be used to enhance the startup's offerings.

Michael Cheng    Mar 28, 2019 7:00 AM PT
Wireless EV Startup WiTricity Acquires Qualcomm Halo

WiTricity's cordless vision for EV chargers has hit a major milestone. Earlier this month, the startup announced the successful acquisition of Qualcomm's wireless charging arm – Qualcomm Halo. The deal includes access to more than 1,500 cutting-edge patents, which could be used to enhance WiTricity's offerings.

The agreement appears to be a consolidation of platforms, as Qualcomm will become a minority stakeholder in the startup. The technology WiTricity now has its hands on is a robust wireless charging system for EVs, which is facilitated by a flat pad connected to a nearby power source. Communication, controllers, guidance and safety components are also included in the package.

Wireless EV Charging

The Halo charging system was developed in 2011, streamlined by Qualcomm's acquisition of British startup HaloIPT. Previously, the wireless pads were utilized to charge Formula E vehicles during events. With roots from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), WiTricity's current wireless charging system has also been tested and used in live environments. The company showcased the capabilities of its DRIVE 11 wireless charging system at CES, in collaboration with Honda.

"Bringing the Qualcomm Halo technology into the WiTricity portfolio will simplify global interoperability and significantly accelerate commercialization," said Alex Gruzen, CEO of WiTricity.

"This is an exciting day for WiTricity, for automakers, for prospective EV buyers, and ultimately for any company deploying fleets of autonomous vehicles."

Wireless EV charging has the potential to revolutionize fleet management. The technology could decrease bottlenecks during busy operations. For instance, when powering numerous electric delivery trucks on a daily basis, time spent on the process is greatly reduced as drivers can simply drive up to the pad and drive away after charging the battery. For electrified self-driving cars, wireless pads could enable more freedom through autonomous charging features.

How Does it Work?

Wireless charging for EVs work in the same way cordless charging pads are used to power smartphones. Leveraging inductive charging, coils inside the pad and the electrified car must line up very close to each other, in order to transfer energy efficiently. Charging rates are slower when using wireless technologies. However, the added convenience of not needing to manage bulky cords is a huge incentive for owners.

In addition to charging EV fleets, this type of technology is useful in residential spaces and homes, where individuals can leave their EV charging overnight inside the garage. Furthermore, it could serve as a seamless charging solution for public charging stations. Because EVs do not make direct contact with the pad, the equipment does not degrade quickly. By comparison, traditional charging cords are constantly pulled; while weatherproof cord caps (attachment plugs or connectors) are prone to damage from daily or frequent handling.

"With Qualcomm technology and expertise, we have been able to deliver innovative automotive solutions, like Qualcomm Halo wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC), not only to support the shared vision of a more efficient, safer and cleaner urban mobility, but also to transform the automotive experience," said Steve Pazol, former Vice President and General Manager at Qualcomm.

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