World of Wireless Phone, Car Charging Comes One Step Closer

July 29, 2015 Updated: August 18, 2015

Electric cables for smartphones and cars could soon become a vestige of history. On July 28 and 29 respectively, Qualcomm rolled out wireless charging projects for smartphones and electric cars bringing the reality one step closer.

A similar system for phones is already delivered by companies like Powermat, which has partnered with retail outlets like Starbucks and McDonald’s to offer the service to customers.

And Plugless has a home installation stations for the top electric vehicles on the market.

Qualcomm Technologies Inc. has plans for mainstreaming both.

To be compatible with wireless charging, phones either need an adapter, which Powermat sells, or they’ll need a metal back. 

“Today, more device manufacturers are choosing to utilize metal alloys in their product designs to provide greater structural support and, of course, aesthetics,” Steve Pazol, a general manager at Qualcomm, said in a statement.

Qualcomm’s technology, working in tandem with this development in the industry, opens up a world of use cases for consumer electronics, says Pazol.

Besides convenience, wireless chargers experience less wear and tear than cords, and potentially less energy is lost in the process.

The disadvantage is that wireless charging usually takes longer than the traditional method.

Qualcomm has chosen to adopt the Rezence standard for wireless charging, one of the three charging standards vying for widespread adoption, the other two being Qi, used by Powermat, and Power 2.0.

Auto Charging

Halo, Qualcomm’s system of wireless charging for electric vehicles, has already been tested on the likes of Formula E racing vehicles, and now the company wants to introduce it to the consumer market. It signed a licensing agreement to allow Brusa, an automobile parts company, to develop, manufacture, and supply Halo metal plates to other car manufacturers.

“Qualcomm Hal licensees can bring to market highly efficient, fit-for-purpose, [Plug-In Hybrid and Electric Vehicles] systems, which allow convenient charging and improve the EV driver’s user experience,” Pazol said in a statement.

This isn’t Qualcomm’s first collaboration with a consumer car company. In May, it partnered with Mercedes Benz maker Daimler AG to develop wireless charging technologies.

Loosely speaking, wireless charging is also widely used today, the method being analogous to Wi-Fi. Electrical charging is done by using conductive coils to create a magnetic field that acts as a conduit for electricity in place of metal wires.

The Braun company, which makes rechargeable toothbrushes, has used wireless charging at extremely close range in its products since the 1990s, but the landmark moment for inductive charging technology was in 2006, when MIT scientists found a way to transfer electricity between coils a few meters apart.

Mass adoption of wireless charging could have immense environmental consequences as the range for wireless charging lengthens as the technology progresses; disposable batteries for gadgets like the mouse and keyboard could be replaced with rechargeable batteries as charging stations find their way into everyday furniture; you’ll never have to throw away another worn-out plastic cord.

Theoretically, wireless charging plates could be installed onto the highways, allowing electric cars to charge while they drive.

For cars, wireless charging offers a solution to the low-range problem—a fully-charged Tesla model S can only drive for 250 miles—that plagues existing models. Theoretically, wireless charging plates could be installed onto the highways, allowing electric cars to charge while they drive.

As fantastical as that may sound, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has already promised the world that he’ll get around to making something like that happen, although not formally. In a 2014 interview with Musk, Stephen Colbert said that he wanted “a charging system” that would follow him around anywhere in the United States,” to which Musk replied “We’ll do it.”

“Elon Musk, everybody: SpaceX, Tesla, and wireless charging,” Colbert said, ending the interview.