Dollars & Sense

GM to add wireless charging stations in some 2014 vehicles

Updated: 2013-08-19T14:20:20Z

General Motors Co. will start offering wireless charging for smartphones in some vehicles next year, said Ran Poliakine, chief executive officer of Powermat Technologies Ltd.

Instead of plugging in cables to replenish battery power, drivers of some 2014 GM models will be able to place mobile devices onto a Powermat surface inside the car to draw electricity. Phones must be capable of recharging via built-in technology, or use a case designed for the purpose.

GM, an investor in Powermat, would be the first carmaker to build the technology into its models, Poliakine said. The Detroit-based automaker is racing with Toyota Motor Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC, which have also indicated they will include the feature in some 2014 models. Global shipments of wirelessly charging devices are projected to rise to almost 100 million by 2015 from 5 million units last year, according to IHS.

“The car is a major part of life for everyone with a smartphone,” Poliakine said in an interview. “And this is taking care of that part of life.”

Phones that can charge without being plugged in contain a coil that receives electricity from a magnetic field when placed on a Powermat-enabled surface. Charging time is comparable to wired connections. Powermat’s joint venture with Procter & Gamble Co. has installed its Duracell Powermat chargers in tables at Starbucks Corp. shops in Silicon Valley, Boston and New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Several industry groups are promoting different standards: Power Matters Alliance, which includes Powermat, BlackBerry and AT&T Inc.; Wireless Power Consortium, with Nokia Oyj, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Verizon Wireless; and Alliance for Wireless Power, whose supporters include HTC Corp., Intel Corp. and Qualcomm Inc. Some companies joined multiple associations.

Dan Flores, a spokesman for Detroit-based GM, declined to comment on when Powermat technology would arrive in the company’s cars.

“We continue to work with Powermat to bring their technologies to GM products, but for competitive reasons we’re not discussing specifics at this time,” Flores said. “The technology continues to move forward.”

Powermat Technologies has raised more than $80 million from investors, Poliakine said. GM announced in January 2011 a $5 million investment in Powermat to promote the use of wireless- charging in cars. At the time, the automaker said the technology could be in vehicles as soon as mid-2012 and that the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid sedan would be one of the first to offer it.

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