Sparkling Future for Wireless Charging

What do electric toothbrushes, mobile phones, drones and cathode ray TV’s have to do with electric vehicles?

 As the auto industry drives us towards an exciting future of electric, autonomous vehicles, what is less certain is the infrastructure to keep things moving. And this is one area of innovation that is changing rapidly from plug in, to wireless charging, or perhaps something even more bizarre? PatSnap Discovery Data for Auto might hold some clues.

 It is common knowledge that BMW and Audi have patented their own wireless charging pads that do away with the need for charging points by simply having the car wait over a wireless charging plate. The future might involve thousands of charging pads strategically placed around town in places cars naturally come to a temporary halt, like pedestrian crossings. This is leading to ideas of cars “power snacking” while they wait, helping to reduce feelings of “range anxiety” that drivers experience. How long before the old corded power points we see around town begin to look as dated as a cathode ray TV?

But this is not just about the traditional auto makers. There are other less well-known disruptors moving into this innovation space who are quietly, but determinedly shaping the future.

Witricity were once better known for their wireless charging technology for mobile phones. It did not take a hugely imaginative leap for them to notice that their magnetic resonance technology had much wider applications in the auto space. China is pushing toward an all-electric vehicle future, and officials predict that will happen by 2040. Witricity recently announced an intellectual property licensing agreement with Anjie Wireless, a China-based automotive Tier 1 supplier, to develop wireless vehicle charging systems for sale to leading carmaker brands in the China market and beyond.

Patent data searches also suggests that the sort of charging technology found in your electric toothbrush, also has auto applications. Qualcomm, another business not normally operating in the auto space, more renowned for communications tech, is innovating here.

But Qualcomm would appear to be taking a different route to Witricity, using static inductive charging technology. Instead of the car needing to come to a temporary halt over a charging plate, Qualcomm’s approach means that the vehicle recharges while moving thanks to infrastructure embedded in the road surface.

And taking a different route entirely are Ford Global who are filing patents for drone to vehicle charging, mostly aimed at the truck market that has serious power/ range issues. The drone is automatically summoned to the truck when the software detects low power battery levels. The drone lands on a docking station on the truck and while the truck is in motion, it recharges the battery and then flies off, leaving the truck to continue its unbroken journey. 

With the above examples in mind the question is where it leaves major players like IONITY. Formed from an impressive partnership between BMW, Daimler, VW and Ford they have been backing their Combined Charging System which can recharge a typical vehicle to 80% in just 15 minutes. They already have 400 refueling stations across Europe, but with charging while on the move fast becoming a reality, who will go the distance? 

The challenge for automotive innovators, developers and investors is trying to figure out which technologies or businesses to back. Auto innovators must be looking at their competitive market horizontally, not vertically as this will risk missing a competitor under the radar – PatSnap Discovery for Auto is the tool to help you do that.

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