NEW YORK — General Motors recently announced that it has partnered with Powermat to include multimode wireless charging in its 2015 Cadillacs and several other models. Adding standard wireless charging to a luxury vehicle is a step in the right direction, but an inductive-based system may not be as forward thinking as GM would hope.
GM and Powermat haven't released wireless charging specs, but officials from the carmaker said drivers can expect a system that's also compatible with the current version of Qi. Though Qi's champion, the Wireless Power Consortium, has repeatedly said it doesn't want to be exclusively associated with one form of wireless charging, it's likely that GM will use the closely coupled magnetic inductive charging system. Powermat is also based on inductive technology, so is this truly multimode?
GM described the charging setup in a press release:
The wireless charging feature will be located inside the storage bin behind the fully motorized center instrument panel faceplate of the ATS [sports sedan and coupe]. This location creates a convenient option for drivers so they can keep their hands on the wheel. Using Bluetooth, a driver can pair his or her phone to the vehicle and enjoy many of the connectivity elements of the mobile device while it is both out of the way and charging.
Inductive charging has been criticized as having little freedom of movement; devices must be placed in a specific spot, so the coils on the transmitter and the receiver can line up. GM's setup would essentially enclose the smartphone while it charges (and presumably keep it in place for energy transfer), but the future of mobile and wearable devices requires more than inductive charging can give.
I've written previously about the ongoing wireless charging standards battle, and I have come to the conclusion that loosely coupled coil charging (also known as magnetic resonant charging) will be the wave of the future. Assuming GM owners will drive their cars into the ground, or at least lease them for a couple of years, wouldn't a tech-forward luxury car company want to drive forward with the new paradigm? The people who buy Cadillacs for their advanced technology may also have a wearable device or two, which will likely incorporate resonance-based charging in the future. Such devices would benefit from more freedom of movement, or perhaps resonant-enabled cup holders where they can bounce around.
GM doesn't seem worried about the challenges or battle between inductive and resonant charging standards. Its strategy is to focus on the current technology, rather than the technology to come.
"We already had the storage unit in there and haven't changed or adapted the vehicle much. A lot of people were already using the compartment to store their phone," a GM spokeswoman told EE Times. "Even if the customer doesn't want to take advantage of it technology-wise, the customer doesn't have to fight using this technology, and it won't be an invasive experience."