Electric cars and plug-in hybrids won’t recharge their batteries through a bulky cord. Instead, a small pad placed on the garage floor — or maybe embedded in it — will transmit energy to a receiver on the car’s undercarriage, no wires needed. Just drive over the pad, park and forget about it.
That’s the vision of WiTricity, a Boston-area startup backed by Toyota and Intel. Its technology resembles the cordless charging pads already available for smartphones and tablets, but it can transmit more power over greater distance.
Spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007, WiTricity isn’t the only company chasing this particular vision, with Qualcomm, Bosch and Evatran rolling out their own versions. WiTricity CEO Alex Gruzen argues that wireless recharging will soon become the norm, for personal electronics, medical devices and, yes, cars. The power cord’s days may be numbered.
“I’ll have it in my kitchen counter, my bedside table, probably my coffee table,” Gruzen said. “And throughout my day, I’ll be casually topping off my devices with this quick ‘energy snacking.’ The same thing will happen in the automotive space, because when you park, it’ll just charge, and you won’t be thinking about it.”
Toyota was an early investor in the company, which has raised $45 million. The world’s largest automaker plans to offer WiTricity’s technology as an option on its plug-in hybrid Prius, Gruzen said. A Toyota spokeswoman declined to confirm any specific plans to outfit the Prius with WiTricity’s gear. But the automaker announced a licensing agreement with WiTricity in 2013 and has field-tested the equipment.
Honda uses WiTricity to recharge a Fit EV at one of the auto company’s showcase “smart homes” near Tokyo. And several of the world’s largest auto-industry suppliers, including Delphi Corp. and IHI Corp., have licensed WiTricity’s technology.
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