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Wireless Phone Chargers To Debut In Toyota’s 2013 Avalon

December 20, 2012
Image Caption: Toyota offers in-console Qi wireless charging in the 2013 Avalon Limited. Credit: Toyota

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

A century ago pioneering electrical engineer Nikola Tesla envisioned a world powered by wireless energy transfer. Known as inductive charging or wireless charging, the technology would have meant never worrying about that misplaced mobile phone cord. And perhaps if Tesla had worked with Henry Ford, cars would long ago have had such technology as a standard option. But alas, it didn´t come to pass.

However, come next year, the technology could finally be a feature in some automobiles.

On Thursday Toyota announced plans to introduce a system that would allow charging for mobile devices in its new Avalon sedan. First came the hands-free movement with mobile phones as a safety measure, and now wireless may arrive as a matter of convenience for drivers and passengers alike.

The Avalon will offer a wireless charging pad integrated into its ebin lid that is situated in the vehicle´s center console, a convenient spot for drivers or passengers to place their mobile devices.

“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.

“We see wireless charging as an important feature that helps enhance the high-technology theme and consumer interface offered by Avalon Limited which is already equipped with three TFT color screens and Intellitouch controls.”

The wireless phone charging system known as Qi (pronounced “chee”) will be part of Toyota´s $1,950 “technology package” that will start appearing in cars next spring. The Qi technology has become the de facto standard for wireless power and charging, and compatible devices can get juiced up simply by placing them on, or even near, a Qi-enabled surface.

What makes this platform unique is that any Qi-enable device can work with any Qi charger regardless of brand or manufacturer. Currently the technology is being utilized by Nokia, but other manufacturers are quickly scrambling to ditch their wires as well.

There are currently 34 supported handsets on the market, including Nokia´s Nexus 4 and Lumia 920 as well as the HTC Windows Phone 8X. After years in development, this technology finally appears to be ready to take off. It has been around for a few years, and has already been integrated in other handsets, notably the Palm Pre.

The good news for consumers is that Qi has the backing of the Wireless Power Consortium, which has more than 100 members that include Nokia, Samsung, HTC, Motorola Mobility (now owned by Google) and Sony. The group signed an agreement in 2008 calling for an open standard for wireless power, which in turn became Qi.

The technology isn´t just limited to mobile phones either and is already being used in charging pads, gaming controllers, Blu-ray Disc recorders, smartphone docking speakers, automobile phone chargers, alarm clocks and battery packs. Inductive charging is also making its way to public venues. The BBC reported that the Israeli firm Powermat Technologies has looked to develop charging pads for mobile phones that could be placed in retail outlets such as Starbucks.

On the automobile front, Toyota isn´t alone in looking to bring wireless charging to automobiles, as General Motors had announced plans back in 2011 to introduce a pad-based charging plate in its Chevrolet Volt. But to date, it has yet to arrive. Chrysler has also announced plans to introduce the technology in its Dodge Dart.

For now, however, those wanting to wirelessly charge their devices while driving will have to consider getting behind the wheel of a new Toyota.


Source: Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online