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Powermat charger in car console  (Source: The Detroit News)
Wireless gadget charging coming to Volt first

GM has announced at CES in Las Vegas that it has signed a $5 million deal with Powermat to put the charging mats for gadgets into GM vehicles around the world. Powermat has been in the market for a long time and is one of the firms that make charging mats and cases that allow users to charge smartphones and other gear without having to plug in cables.

The investment with Powermat gives GM a full year of exclusive use for the tech inside vehicles and will make charging on the go a wireless prospect rather than users needing to plug devices into their DC outlet with cords and cables. GM notes that the first vehicle to see the Powermat tech will be the Volt, which has become a technology platform for GM.

The Powermat charging plates will be integrated into the center console of the vehicle for front seat passengers and will also be integrated in the back of the vehicle for rear seat passengers. GM has not noted when the chargers will surface, but they are not expected any sooner than in 2012 model year vehicles.

GM's Micky Bly said, "The Chevy Volt will be one of the first applications, but we intend to expand it across our vehicle portfolio."

The $5 million investment from GM is also intended to help the company expand its technology and expand globally. Reuters quotes Powermat CEO Ran Poliakine saying, "GM is a very, very good partner for us, not only for the automotive industry, but more in the context of what we are trying to achieve."

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By Drag0nFire on 1/6/2011 2:56:38 PM , Rating: 5
When I first saw this title, I assumed they wanted to charge the Volt using a car sized power mat. Now that would be a feat...

RE: wow
By Darkk on 1/6/2011 3:03:58 PM , Rating: 3
Eventually they will and I think it will solve alot of issues of us being lazy to recharge the car when parked in the garage. :)

RE: wow
By tastyratz on 1/6/2011 3:09:52 PM , Rating: 2
eventually I think they wont.
Hate to burst the bubble of that romantic notion but wireless power technology is incredibly inefficient, nevermind scaled up at the incredible radiation levels it would take to recharge a car. I think if GM started installing 6-12000 watt open microwaves for people to put in their homes the fcc might have a bone to pick... Same reason you haven't seen it at even smaller scales in the home for a lamp for example.

I think it will be limited to very small low power low output devices for the foreseeable future.

I personally think its a great idea but the primary issue at hand is device support. Very few devices actually support charging with a powermat natively. I would love to see that change...

RE: wow
By rcc on 1/6/2011 5:44:14 PM , Rating: 1
Wonder what the long term effects will be of people laying their arm on top of this thing as they drive.

Hark, I predict a new malady. Volt elbow. Or perhaps Powermat dysfunction?

RE: wow
By Motoman on 1/6/2011 6:08:25 PM , Rating: 2
That's what I was thinking...anyone know what the loss % is on these things? They've got to waste an enormous amount of energy...

RE: wow
By MozeeToby on 1/6/2011 6:13:15 PM , Rating: 5
A) There is no significant electromagnetic radiation associated with these devices. They transfer energy through magnetic inductance, just an oscillating magnetic field. It doesn't interfere with radios, wifi, or anything else (though I wouldn't recommend putting a floppy disk on top of one).

B) They aren't as inefficient as you seem to thing. Properly positioned, they can actually be reasonably efficient. The principle is nearly identical to the way transformers work to change one voltage to another, just using magnetic rather than electrical inductance. Granted, transformers are precisely designed to be efficient, but even a 10% loss at each voltage change would cost the power companies billions of dollars a year in losses.

C) You have seen this technology in use for home appliances, you just never realized it. Induction cook top stoves use magnetic inductance to heat a pan more efficiently than putting the pan on a hot burner does (that's why you can boil a pot of water in less than 60s on one). The reason you don't see wireless lamps is because there's no point, the device needs to be very close to the source, and there isn't a huge market for lamps that can easily be moved from one end table to the other.

So... to recap: magnetic inductance isn't inefficient, it doesn't produce dangerous (or any) amount of radiation, and it is in use in home consumer products (even relatively high power ones) today.

To use the tech to charge a car, I suspect you would have to have the inductance coils lower very close to the ground when it was parked over the mat (could be done automatically if the mat sends a signal to the car), and the mat would also have to move to get the alignment perfect (to increase efficiency). It would take engineering work, and add complexity to your electric car (which goes against one of the primary advantages of an electric car). But there isn't any reason such a system couldn't work efficiently. Again, keep in mind, your power goes through a dozen similar systems before it even reaches your house.

RE: wow
By Samus on 1/7/2011 7:20:18 AM , Rating: 2
II agree with all your points, but couldn't agree more with point B.

Directional wireless energy can be nearly 100% efficient when properly focused. Air, under most conditions, has less resistance than copper. The distance the energy needs to be focused is also very short in most cases. We're not talking about replacing powerlines going to your home from the electric company, just a few feet in your garage.

I think the trunk or hood could be an antenna dish for receiving power and when you get home there would be a micro dish mounted in the rafters of the garage to focus electricity down to the car. Long wavelength high frequency energy could potentially move as much electricity as a conventional cable connection, and the convenience if rolled out to parking garages, parking lots (could charge from ground-up) and other public locations would be remarkably easy to use and bill. A two-way transmission would yeild easy billing and reduce theft of energy.

RE: wow
By tastyratz on 1/7/2011 8:40:32 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree.

Inductive cooktops work well because of their ability to FOCUS heat energy to a specific metallic source. It is NOT because they are more "energy efficient" because electric heat is always 100% energy efficient, it all gets converted to heat. Any magnetic inductance cooktop energy losses in the form of heat? A usable side effect. Heat losses charging a car? not the case.

High efficiency magnetic inductance systems might be 86% efficient. When your talking about 500mw vs 833mw for small devices its not a very big deal. reasonably efficient for trivial levels of energy only, it's all relative.

If your talking 6600 watts vs almost 7700 watts that's a VERY big loss in efficiency. For something like an electric car to be feasible it cant be wasting energy on a gimmick, hippies frown... Not to mention the sheer waste. Then again the ignorant consumer is who pays.

P.S. that 86% was derived from the magnecharge system, used for electric vehicle charging by gm but pulled.

You are confusing power company step up and step down voltage transformers which are COMPLETELY different in operation and concept. Also even if the transformer is inefficient the transmittance of extremely high voltage over power lines leads to less loss in infrastructure making up the difference (not to mention the fact that power companies produce electricity at extremely high voltages unusable at the household ANYWAY.

While this technology does indeed exist at home, its not at this magnitude for most consumers. Maybe it wont kill you, but as you say you wouldn't put a floppy over the mat in the car... so what about a laptop computer with a magnetic hard drive you forgot in the back seat of your electric car when charging overnight? Your ipod? Would they be safe? Would consumers be thrilled?

RE: wow
By JediJeb on 1/7/2011 12:52:16 PM , Rating: 2
Inductive cooktops work well because of their ability to FOCUS heat energy to a specific metallic source.

But inductive cooktops don't focus HEAT energy, they use a narrow field focused MAGNETIC energy to induce heat in the metal. That is why glass cookware won't get hot while sitting on an induction burner. Also the heat loss from an inductive cooktop comes from the heat transferred from the pan to the cooktop and air, not from the cooktop itself. If you turn one on and place your hand on it you will feel no heat( unless you are wearing metallic jewelery ).

RE: wow
By JediJeb on 1/7/2011 12:53:51 PM , Rating: 2
Inductive cooktops work well because of their ability to FOCUS heat energy to a specific metallic source.

But inductive cooktops don't focus HEAT energy, they use a narrow field focused MAGNETIC energy to induce heat in the metal. That is why glass cookware won't get hot while sitting on an induction burner. Also the heat loss from an inductive cooktop comes from the heat transferred from the pan to the cooktop and air, not from the cooktop itself. If you turn one on and place your hand on it you will feel no heat( unless you are wearing metallic jewelery ).

RE: wow
By mindless1 on 1/8/2011 12:11:41 AM , Rating: 2
A) They were talking about charging a car. At that level and distance off the ground, yes there would be significant electromagnetic radiation, you would have to watch what you wear and what is in your garage.

B) They aren't as efficient as you seem to think. Define reasonably efficient. Typical unregulated wall warts are about 60% efficient, a far cry below switching power supplies at typical 80%+ while a powermat is below 60%. That is a BIG, GIANT step backwards.

The principle is NOT identical, the whole point with the transformer is closely coupled magnetic fields, as close as possible rather than trying to bridge a gap with an air /plastic/etc core. The key is in the details and in this case we were talking about efficiency, not merely whether it is possible to do it at all.

C) Induction cook top stoves are indeed more efficient when using proper cookware on them but it is not the "same technology", at best it is half of one subsystem similar because it uses a magnetic coil. The rest is different enough we might as well say a hard drive is "same technology" too.

The reason you don't see wireless lamps is it is senseless to add cost, complexity, and inefficiency without a pressing need for convenient use of portable devices, that it is not a "goal" to make everything wireless, rather a concession made for convenience or laziness, especially when a device can easily have charging contacts on it's shell such that it fits in a charging dock - these could be made universal.

To recap, magnetic inductance IS very inefficient in this scenario, and moderately inefficient still in a more optimized transformer in consumer grade devices without a switching circuit involved to raise frequency.

That it is "in use" in home consumer products is a vague and nonsensical statement, like saying plastic is in use in products so that proves a device made of plastic is ok/good/whatever merely because it is plastic.

The devil is in the details.

RE: wow
By quiksilvr on 1/6/2011 3:05:28 PM , Rating: 2
That idea crossed my mind as well. Imagine just parking at a spot and putting some money into a charger station. No wires, no muss, no fuss.

Though to save power, I wouldn't have a car sized powermat. Maybe a three section powermat (front, middle, back) and you pick the correct section where the battery is being kept.

RE: wow
By GTVic on 1/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: wow
By kattanna on 1/7/2011 4:45:13 PM , Rating: 2

Wirelessly Powered Tesla Car

so.. they ARE doing it


how can i...
By Souka on 1/6/2011 7:47:41 PM , Rating: 2
I don't like this concept.

How am I supposed to text-n-drive with my phone on the center console?? Sure seems dangerous for me to constantly be looking down and to the side to read or send a text!

(btw, this is a joke...but figured I should say so as many people would probably get upset).

RE: how can i...
By Rott3nHIppi3 on 1/7/2011 10:23:04 AM , Rating: 2
You actually make a good point. If i'm using the Navigation feature on my phone, I'm likely going to have it charging at the same time. They should create a pop-out mat on the dash that the phone can "lean" against and be at eye level.

RE: how can i...
By JediJeb on 1/7/2011 12:56:51 PM , Rating: 2
Or one in the steering wheel. Better yet make a built in HUD that will wirelessly connect to the phone to display the Navigation information in a small section of the windshield.

RE: how can i...
By Mr Perfect on 1/7/2011 1:20:30 PM , Rating: 2
I'm really liking the HUD idea. HUDs in general, really. Why look away from the road when you can superimpose data on it? Didn't some manufacturer have an infrared-vision HUD for night driving?

RE: how can i...
By Souka on 1/7/2011 6:11:56 PM , Rating: 2
I forsee liability a problem with the above ideas (I like the idea however).

If they put a powermat on the steeringwheel or a leaning-design on the dash for the reason of using the phone while driving... oh boy.... lawyers will be busy!

RE: how can i...
By Alexvrb on 1/8/2011 10:20:36 PM , Rating: 2
That was also GM, actually. They have some pretty nice HUDs already for cars, but the one you're talking about was one of their prototypes. They showed off its capability to see the road edge through fog (via infrared cameras) and highlight it on the windshield so that the driver can see the road edge despite heavy fog.

Anyway, the best solution for using your phone for navigation, music, calling, etc would be for all cell phone vendors to come up with a standardized method of carrying two-way data (including interface commands from the car's touch screen), via bluetooth or a cable. That way you could leverage the car's microphone(s), speakers, and built-in touchscreen. But yeah, good luck getting all the software and hardware vendors to come together on that one. Especially Apple, they'll most certainly come up with their own variant.

I like powermat though either way, I just wish more devices supported it out of the box!

What is wrong with a battery?
By Shadowmaster625 on 1/7/2011 8:38:19 AM , Rating: 2
Batteries should be easily replacable, like cartridges on a Nintendo DS. You pop the dead one out, pop the fresh one in, and plug the dead one in the charger. Then batteries at least stand a chance at being standardized. (Like AA is a standard? omg the horror!) Oh my that's so tough. Of course people who spend $1000 a year on phones are retarded and they refuse to demand a remotely logical or rational design.

RE: What is wrong with a battery?
By JediJeb on 1/7/2011 12:59:49 PM , Rating: 2
That's how my first cellphone was, just kept a spare battery on the charger and swapped out when the one I was using got low.

RE: What is wrong with a battery?
By Mr Perfect on 1/7/2011 1:18:27 PM , Rating: 2
The reason people prefer to plug into a charger, or drop on a power mat, is because you can continue to use the device without interuption. Pulling the battery out kills your phone call, GPS route, music or what have you.

By mindless1 on 1/8/2011 12:19:42 AM , Rating: 2
Why would it have to be one way or the other? It could as easily have both a charge port and removable battery, BUT there is an argument to be made for a built in battery on a phone because it's carried with you everyone in your pocket, it is one case where size reduction is really good, and yet the size increase from a design built around a cylindrical Li-Ion cell wouldn't have to be much, if only they designed for it instead of assuming cylindrical must mean NiMH or NiCd.

This should be built into phones
By shabby on 1/6/2011 5:38:52 PM , Rating: 4
It would be great if this would be built into phones rather than being an accessory with some usb connector sticking out from the phone.

By MrFord on 1/7/2011 2:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
One day, people will enjoy what we Palm Pre owners have been enjoying for years.

Just got one of these
By omnicronx on 1/6/2011 2:40:51 PM , Rating: 2
I have to say they are pretty cool.. Not as good as a native solution like the Palm Pre, but its getting there..

Also I think you need to fix the title.. (Volt not Voly)

What is really missing.
By rudy on 1/6/2011 5:42:23 PM , Rating: 2
Is for people to design cars with a display like port for your mobile devices so you can just stick the mobild device up like a GPS, have it charging and everything else. Instead car companies keep trying to sell you their own display that will be obsolete in 18 months. The way to go is just make in dash depressed regions which can grab or hold a phone/ pda up, charge it and run the sound system, etc.

By btc909 on 1/6/2011 6:12:13 PM , Rating: 2
I looked at Powermat several times over the past year but the limited cell phone sleeve availability is disappointing. I really like the wireless charging battery option but yet I don't own any of the phones Powermat offers.

Cupholder Proximity
By brshoemak on 1/6/2011 9:32:01 PM , Rating: 2
What happens if the cupholdered are not engineers properly and you spill your Jamba Juice on it?

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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