Exclusive: In 2016, Toyota to Offer Wireless Charging on Next-Gen Prius Plug In
The next generation of the Toyota Prius Plug In, due in the fall of 2016, will have the option of wireless charging using technology from Massachusetts-based WiTricity, said a spokesman for that company. The Toyota Plug In is currently the second best-selling plug-in car in the U.S., with sales of 9,300 so far this year (behind only the Nissan LEAF).
WiTricity specializes in magnetic resonance charging, both for cars and for consumer devices. It’s working with other automakers, including Nissan (on the forthcoming Infiniti LE, which will also have the company’s wireless charging), BMW and Honda (which recently said it will commercialize the system, also in 2016).
Two Big Reasons
Developed from technology pioneered by MIT scientist Marin Soljačić, the chargers have the benefit for automakers of “positional freedom"—not needing precise alignment (as standard inductive chargers do)—and permitting receivers and transmitters of different sizes.
According to Kaynam Hedayat, vice president of product management and marketing at WiTricity, the latter is very important for carmakers because a smaller receiver mounted under the vehicle will weigh less and not take up valuable real estate. Postional freedom is important, too, because car owners won’t need surgical precision in aligning the car with the pad on the garage floor.
Hedayat said its current car chargers operate at 3.3 kilowatts, but 6.6 will be available (at 90 percent efficiency) early next year—presumably in time for the Toyota. Asked what the price might be for consumers, he guessed the cost to automakers at around $1,000, maybe less. “I don’t know what Toyota’s will sell it for,” he said.
Alex Gruzen, WiTricity's CEO, said in an interview that 2016 is likely to be the year that wireless charging for cars sees widespread adoption. "If we can bring ease of use and convenience to the user experience, that will accelerate the adoption," he said. "The goal is to make ownership simple and pleasurable."
In Testing Now
Jana Hartline, an environmental spokeswoman for Toyota, acknowledged an ongoing partnership with WiTricity. She added via email, “I cannot comment on wireless charging options for MY16 PHV,” but a Toyota document dated February she attached confirmed that the company is working on “verification testing” of an unnamed magnetic resonance wireless system with Prius plug-in hybrids, three of which will be used in a one-year test in homes in Aichi Prefacture. Commercialization, the report said, is “the ultimate aim” of the Japanese test.
Hartline said that working with OEMs has given WiTricity “a depth of knowledge,” and that avoiding the need for precise alignment “could be the key wireless charging enabler for the general customer.”
Honda in 2016, Too
On June 16, Honda showed off WiTricity-based wireless charging of a Fit EV at its Smart House in Saitama, Japan. According to Honda, “The wireless charging system transmits electromagnetic waves from the power transmission coil installed on the floor of a garage to the power reception coil installed under the floor of the EV. The company expects to commercialize the system in 2016.”
BMW has been quieter about its work with WiTricity. "I'm sorry, I don't have any information on wireless charging," said spokesman Julian Arguelles. Another new partner, TDK (yes, the cassette guys) has been looking at the possibility of embedding Witricity-based magnetic charging into roadways. "Delphi also came, looked at our technology, and took a license," Gruzen said. "We're proud of our global name brand."
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