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GM announces partnership with Boston startup WiTricity to develop wireless charging technology


Love it or hate it, wireless charging has been around for years. While stereotypically the technology comes with enough convenience issues to make most users question its superiority to traditional chorded tech, like any contemporary invention it has steadily improved over the past few years.

Earlier this week, a partnership was announced between Boston-area startup WiTricity and General Motors (GM), with the goal of developing wireless charging pads for electric vehicles.

Originally the name of a project at MIT, WiTricity broke off to become its own company devoted exclusively to developing wireless technology in 2007.

On Tuesday, the company announced a partnership with GM. Their aim is to develop wireless charging systems for EVs, a “charging pad” that could be installed beneath a layer of concrete or other garage flooring material. Cars could simply be parked over the pad and would charge automatically.

Momentum Dynamics and Plugless have demonstrated similar systems.

“The electric vehicle has been recognized as central to the future of mobility, and GM has been a leader, making EVs accessible to the broader market. The convenience of wireless charging will help accelerate adoption even further,” said Alex Gruzen, CEO of WiTricity, about the alliance. “Wireless charging for EVs, based on industry standards, is inevitable as we move toward a future of self-driving and autonomous vehicles, and this project brings us one step closer to realizing our vision of a world powered wirelessly.”

GM agreed to allow WiTricity to conduct tests on a Chevrolet Volt hybrid vehicle, “to show how well it would work integrated into a real car,” according to Gruzen. Witricity claims that their system can achieve over 90% efficiency, which would make it at least as efficient as a plug-in charger.


“Wireless charging is a technology that our customers have told us they are interested in,” GM’s executive chief engineer of electrified vehicles, Pamela Fletcher, said. “By testing the WiTricity prototype system, we can ensure that wireless charging systems will comply with proposed industry standards, which benefits the entire industry and consumers.”

The company has high hopes for their product. Gruzen envisions a future in which EV owners can send autonomous cars to charging stations remotely, a future that would only be possible with wireless charging stations. Susan Beardslee, senior analyst at ABI Research in Scottsdale, Arizona, believes such a station will be cheaper to install than a plug-in system.

It’s an interesting idea, but whether you believe it’s a necessary technology is an entirely different subject. For example, Tesla is instead betting on autonomous plug-in charging systems to complement autonomous vehicles.

In any event, Witricity is adamant about producing the technology.

Gruzen has said that WiTricity’s wireless charging system should be available by the end of 2017, but GM is reportedly less optimistic, and has insisted that there is no official release date for the project.

Featured images courtesy of The Boston Globe and The Engineer

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