Mobile phones will be able to be charged wirelessly on a mat in the 2013 Toyota Avalon.(Photo: Brian Watkins,Toyota)
Toyota said Wednesday that it will offer wireless charging for mobile
phones in its newly redone full-size 2013 Avalon sedan, marching into a
technology that has other automakers mostly watching warily.
joins Chrysler, which will offer a wireless charging pad as a $200
option in its Dodge Dart subcompact early next year. But Chrysler's
charging pad will only be available through its after-market arm,
BMW, Mercedes-Benz and other normally tech-forward
automakers remain on the sidelines. Even General Motors, which took a $5
million ownership stake in Powermat - one of the leading companies in
so-called inductive charging nearly two years ago - has yet to offer
It's a simple concept: the ability to toss your
smartphone onto a pad or bin in your car and have it wirelessly charge
while you drive. No longer would you have to plug in your device.
like many things high-tech, the idea gets complicated in a hurry. The
holdup for mass adoption has been competing charging protocols that
could mean the system might work on some phones and not others. Also,
existing charging systems often require sleeves over phones that users
might find expensive or cumbersome. Or the device may have to be lined
up a certain way on the pad, instead of just tossed on. There are
practical considerations, too, such as whether an untethered phone might
become a projectile in a car crash.
But changes are occurring
that could break down resistance. Toyota says it is the first automaker
to embrace a new protocol called Qi, which will be integrated into 34
mobile phones from various makers. The feature will show up first in the
Avalon, which has a bin for storing electronics below the dashboard.
Inductive charging will be a part of a $1,950 "technology package"
available in the spring. Wireless charging is planned in two other
Toyota models, which the company declined to name.
makers such as LG, maker of the Google Nexus phone, and Nokia plan to
make phones that will charge wirelessly without sleeves. That is proof
that the time is right, says Randy Stephens, chief engineer for Avalon.
Toyota was also encouraged that battery maker Energizer offers a
sleeve, costing about $30 for an Apple iPhone, that fits over existing
phones to allow them to charge wirelessly, Stephens says.
Toyota's system, Chrysler's "power bin" fits into a cubby hole in the
center console where drivers can stow their smartphones. Mopar says the
bin can charge iPhone and Android-based devices. But the system is
considered "conductive," not inductive, because the phone is placed in a
specialized case with metal on the back that connects to metal on the
pad. Inductive systems involve transmitting energy over a magnetic
GM announced nearly two years ago that it planned to put a
inductive charging pad in the Chevrolet Volt, its plug-in
extended-range electric car but it never surfaced. Powermat CEO Ran
Poliakine says a product is on the way, but putting inductive charging
in cars is "100 times" more complicated than in other places.
which makes inductive charging pads for home use, is signing deals to
install charging stations in Starbucks stores and other public venues to
let customers recharge their phones anywhere they go. Poliakine says
that GM vehicles will be just one of those places.