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WiTricity expands wireless charging with Qualcomm deal

Watertown-based WiTricity, which makes wireless battery charging systems for electric cars, is acquiring the wireless charging technology of San Diego’s Qualcomm. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

WiTricity, a spinoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, makes a system that lets a driver park an electric vehicle on top of a pad which radiates a magnetic field capable of charging the car’s battery, without the need to plug a cable into a charger. Qualcomm, best known as a leading maker of chips for cellphones, developed a smilar system called Halo.

WiTricity chief executive Alex Gruzen said the competition between the two companies led carmakers to hold back on electric car development until an industry-wide standard emerged.

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“I think there have been a whole slew of automakers who have just stayed on the sidelines,” Gruzen said. “The tension was just slowing the whole market down.”

But now Qualcomm has agreed to sell its Halo assets to WiTricity, and will become a minority shareholder in WiTricity. The deal will give WiTricity control of more than 1,500 patents and patent applications related to wireless battery charging. This will make WiTricity the de facto industry standard, according to Gruzen. “There’s virtually no way to wirelessly charge an electric vehicle without using our technology,” he said.


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