MADISON, Wisc. — When the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) launches the electric-car competition in 2014 as an alternative to Formula 1, Qualcomm, the San Diego-based mobile wireless chip company, will be first in line, serving as a technology partner to the Formula E championship.
While Qualcomm has not disclosed the sum of money it has pledged toward the five-year contract, this commitment illustrates the mobile chip company's ambition to play a substantial role in the coming electronic car market.
Qualcomm's decision to join the Formula E championship, in fact, shouldn't be viewed just as a marketing stunt that slaps a sponsor's logo onto a race car.
Among the products Qualcomm plans to offer is its wireless vehicle-charging technology, called Halo. The Halo wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC) technology will be fitted into the 2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship safety cars so they can be wirelessly charged. Halo WEVC, however, won't be ready to go into race cars until season two, according to Qualcomm.
Qualcomm plans to help design the vehicle monitoring network used in the race. The company will also support wireless data backend that lets the audience follow the race on mobile devices in real time.
At a time when electric vehicles (EVs) are loaded with sensors and other connectivity devices, Qualcomm's decision is a smart move to make the company widely known as a technology driver for the EV future.
Formula E racing cars, like any other EV, face limited battery life, which forces each driver to stop midway through the race and drive a second car. That's where Qualcomm's Halo technology comes in. The wireless technology, which uses magnetic induction that transfers energy between the ground and the vehicle, is expected to be deployed on the racetrack. A coil built into an electric vehicle will pick up an electromagnetic pulse as the EV runs over a copper pad buried in the ground. The captured charge is then converted into electricity to power up the EV's battery.
Clearly, if drivers are simply to park their EVs over a base pad in the pit, the deployment of Halo's WEVC scheme for charging -- which is said to start automatically -- seems easy enough. It's much tougher with a racing car. The charging has to feed into the battery while the car is moving at track speeds.
Qualcomm has been working with Drayson Racing in Formula E to develop wireless-charging technology. Drayson Racing is said to be evaluating a specially developed version of the Halo WEVC system.
View in the following pages a slideshow on Qualcomm's entry into Formula E championship.
Qualcomm has been already working with Formula E team Drayson Racing ahead of this announcement on a specially developed version of the Halo wireless electric vehicle charging system.