BBC News

Wireless phone charging in cars planned by Toyota

By Katia Moskvitch
Technology reporter, BBC News

image captionThe Qi wireless charging standard was agreed upon in 2008

Charging your smartphone while driving could soon be a simple process needing no cables or adaptors, but using a special wireless mat.

Toyota plans to introduce the system for mobile devices in 2013 in its new Avalon sedan, using a charging standard known as Qi (pronounced "chee").

Chrysler wants to offer a similar option in its Dodge Dart model.

One analyst told the BBC the feature was likely to become mainstream in the months to come.

The wireless charging option will be a part of Toyota's $1,950 (£1,200) "technology package", said to be available from next spring.

To charge a device, a driver will simply have to place it on the mat, though the handset has to have a Qi protocol integrated in it.

Currently, Qi wireless charging is supported by 34 mobile phone models, including the LG Google Nexus 4, Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC Windows Phone 8X.

There are also add-on systems for other smartphones.

"Pioneering the ability to charge with no wires or connectors by simply putting devices in the car console is an intuitive innovation which reflects Toyota's continuing commitment to improve the consumer experience," said Randy Stephens, chief engineer of Toyota Avalon, in a statement.

Magnetic induction

Qi works via magnetic induction that involves transmitting energy over a magnetic field.

Inductive charging plates have been around for several years, and have been integrated in some mobile phones, such as the Palm Pre.

But in 2008, the Wireless Power Consortium, which has more than 100 members, including Samsung, Nokia, HTC, Motorola Mobility and Sony, signed an agreement for an open standard for wireless power, called Qi.

This means that any Qi-enabled handset is compatible with any Qi charger, regardless of the brand.

General Motors announced in 2011 plans to introduce a pad using magnetic induction in its Chevrolet Volt, but so far it has not happened.

An Israeli firm, Powermat Technologies, is currently placing charging pads for mobile phones in numerous public venues around the US, including Starbucks.

There are companies investigating wireless charging via induction for electric cars, which works by having a charging pad on the floor of your garage.

The technology is finally becoming mainstream, according to Shaun Collins, an analyst at consultancy firm CCS Insight.

"Wireless charging is emerging after some years in the wilderness, and is now being adopted [more and more]," he told the BBC.

"The technology is starting to take on much more prominence with the devices [such as the latest] Nokia Windows 8 phone that has wireless charging in it.

"There's a slight dilemma for mobile devices though, as we're constantly striving to get thinner devices but by adding an infrastructure inside a device can compromise the thinness."

More on this story

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