Wouldn’t it be great if charging your cellphone in your car was as simple as tossing it on the dashboard and just waiting a while? No more messing around with tangled up wires and losing adaptors for the cigarette lighter?
Well, buy yourself a shiny new Toyota Avalon when it hits the showrooms next year, and you’ll able to do exactly that.
Toyota’s ‘wireless car charger’ is essentially just a special mat located on top of the dash that uses a special charging standard known as Qi. The feature, which the BBC says will eventually become standard in all Toyota cars, is part of the car manufacturers’ “technology package”, which buyers have to pay an extra $1,950 for when they drive a Toyota model off the showroom floor.
Toyota says that wireless charging will be fitted into its Avalon model when it becomes available in the spring.
To use it, all one has to do is place their phone on the mat and it’ll automatically start replenishing the ‘juice’ in its battery. However, the feature won’t work with all phones just yet – only those that have an integrated Qi protocol installed in them. Currently, 34 mobile phone models support Qi wireless charging, but Toyota said that it’s planning an add-on system that will allow even more smartphones to make use of the system.
“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,” explained Toyota engineer Randy Stephens, in a press release.
Qi works by using a technology known as ‘magnetic induction’, essentially transmitting energy via a magnetic field. It’s not an old technology by any means – these charging plates have been around for a while, and some phones, such as the Palm Pre, even have them built in.
However, Toyota’s development comes as the result of an agreement between the more than 100 phone brands that make up the Wireless Power Consortium, which called for an open standard for wireless power. The result of this is Qi, which allows any Qi-enabled phone to be charged up using any Qi charging pad, irrespective of the brand.
This new innovation won’t be restricted to just cars and other vehicles. Over the next few years, we can expect to see wireless charging pads appear everywhere, and they won’t just be used for replenishing our phones. An Israeli company, Powermat Technologies, has already began installing charging pads in places like Starbucks and other venues, while others are currently looking at the feasibility of developing much larger charging pads that could be used to power up electric cars.