Business

WiTricity teams with GM on wireless car chargers

WiTricity chief executive Alex Gruzen says wireless recharging will be cheaper and convenient for motorists.

WiTricity

WiTricity chief executive Alex Gruzen says wireless recharging will be cheaper and convenient for motorists.

WiTricity Corp., a Watertown-based maker of wireless battery charging systems, has allied with General Motors Corp. to test a system that recharges electric vehicles without plugging them in.

WiTricity’s technology, which was initially developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, uses an electromagnetic field, rather than an electrical cable, to pump power into a car’s battery. The car simply drives onto a charging pad to make the connection. The pad must be connected to a power supply.

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“GM wanted to work with us, to show how well it would work integrated into a real car,” said Witricity chief executive Alex Gruzen.

Witricity conducted tests on a Chevrolet Volt hybrid vehicle. Gruzen said that even though the power is transmitted without wires, his company’s system is more than 90 percent efficient, making it equal to or better than a plug-in car charger.

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Carmakers around the world are developing wireless electric chargers. In response, SAE International, a global automotive industry group, is creating technical standards for such systems. The WiTricity-GM tests will help ensure that WiTricity’s systems comply with the SAE standards.

Gruzen said that wireless charging will become a vital feature for electric cars. Many would-be buyers resent the hassle of having to plug in their cars at night, and fear being stranded if they forget. “Every time you set out on a journey in your car, we want that battery fully charged, and you not to have to think about doing it,” said Gruzen.

Susan Beardslee, senior analyst at ABI Research in Scottsdale, Ariz., said that homeowners must pay about $750 to install a plug-in car charger. She said that putting in a wireless charging pad should be simpler and cheaper. “It’s probably at a better price point because you don’t need to do all the installation,” Beardslee said.

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In addition, wireless charging systems will be essential for self-driving cars.

“You’re not going to have autonomous cars that have to go to a gas station,” Beardslee said, because there’ll often be nobody on board to pump the fuel.

Gruzen said that WiTricity’s wireless charging system should be available for purchase by the end of 2017.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.
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