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GM teams up with Boston startup WiTricity for wireless charging tech

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【Summary】General Motors announces a partnership with WiTricity to create wireless charging technology by the end of 2017.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Dec 31, 2016 3:10 PM PT
GM teams up with Boston startup WiTricity for wireless charging tech

General Motors, like many other automakers, has gone all-in on electric vehicles. But the American automaker recently took another large step to solidify the role of electric cars in its lineup by announcing a partnership with Boston startup WiTricity to create a form of wireless charging technology.

While wireless charging has been around for a number of years when it comes to cellphones, owners of electric vehicles have had to charge their vehicles using traditional plug-in charging systems. With the new partnership, General Motors becomes one of the first automakers to delve into the realm of wireless charging. 

According to WiTricity's announcement, the company is working with General Motors to test its Drive 11 park-and-charge system. The system, which was designed with maximum efficiency and use across various vehicle platforms, in prototype form is being used to test 7.7 and 11 kW charge rates. Both rates are capable of charging battery electric vehicles (BEV) and extended range electric vehicles (EREV).

The system, as outlined by WiTricity, allows the driver to pull into his or her garage and automatically receive an electric power source. In prototype form, the system is designed as a "floor pad" that is installed into the floor of a garage where it provides access to wireless charging.

"Wireless charging is a technology that our customers have told us they are interested in," stated Pamela Fletcher, GM Executive Chief Engineer – Electrified Vehicles. Wireless charging would undoubtedly make owning an electric vehicle easier, as owners wouldn't have to get bulky, large plug-in chargers installed in their garages or worry about having to manually plug their vehicles in after going for a drive.

"The electric vehicle has been recognized as central to the future of mobility," stated Alex Gruzen, CEO of WiTricity. "The convenience of wireless charging will help accelerate adoption even further." While range anxiety is one of the main issues holding consumers back from purchasing an electric vehicle, allowing owners to charge their vehicles wirelessly would surely draw more buyers in.

As Electrek points out, General Motors allowed WiTricity to conduct tests on its Chevrolet Volt, the automaker's plug-in hybrid. The report also claims that the company's wireless charging technology can be up to 90-percent efficient, making it just as efficient as the plug-in charging systems owners currently use.

Electrek claims WiTricity is hoping to release the new technology by the end of 2017. And with backing from General Motors, that sounds like a reasonable goal.

WiTricity originally started off as a project from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with Professor Marin Soljačić at the helm. The team, through "highly resonant wireless power transfer," which has aptly been named WiTricity for short, was able to illuminate a 60-watt light bulb from a power source that was approximately seven feet away. After the discovery, the team became its own company with focus on engineering wireless charging technology in 2007.

With the majority of automakers having at least one electric vehicle in their lineups, General Motors' move to team up with a company that focuses on wireless charging technology will pave the way for other automakers to do the same. 

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