News Column

Cadillacs to integrate wireless charging for smartphones

July 29, 2014

By Nathan Bomey, Detroit Free Press

July 29--General Motors plans to offer wireless charging of smartphones in some 2015 model-year Cadillacs.

The automaker is integrating wireless-charging technology developed in partnership with a supplier called Powermat, which GM's venture capital arm funded several years ago.

The first vehicles to get the Powermat capability will be the 2015 Cadillac ATS sedan and coupe. Toward the end of 2014, the automaker also will make the technology available on the 2015 Cadillac CTS sedan and the 2015 Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle.

"The plan is to include us into all GM cars," Powermat CEO Ran Poliakine said in an interview.

The technology will allow drivers or passengers to charge devices by placing them in a bin behind the center-console panel that swings up at the touch of a button.

GM said devices must be equipped with wireless charging capability to work when placed on Powermat's rubberized pad. The system generates an electromagnetic field that charges batteries. GM said a majority of wirelessly chargeable devices would work with the system.

Users still will be able to use some functions on their phone -- like placing and receiving calls -- when their device is connected to the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system through Bluetooth technology.

Powermat, which shifted its headquarters to New York City from Commerce Township, developed proprietary software for operating the charging device. The hardware is manufactured in Asia.

GM invested $5 million in Powermat in January 2011.

Powermat secured a major customer recently when Starbucks agreed to install the company's wireless charging device in its U.S. stores, after a successful pilot program in Boston and San Jose, Calif. Duracell Powermat, the company's joint venture with Proctor & Gamble, sells the device to retail customers.

GM is incorporating the system as the technology industry is debating the future of wireless charging technologies. Powermat is a member of an association called the Power Matters Alliance that promotes a specific type of charging system. A competing group called Wireless Power Consortium is promoting a different format.

Poliakine said both technologies use magnetic induction, suggesting that Powermat can adapt if the industry settles on the Wireless Power Consortium solution.

"Like every other technology, technologies will evolve over time," he said.

The system's release in GM's luxury lineup gives the automaker another selling point for digitally savvy consumers. The company recently started selling the first models of its 2015 lineup with AT&T's 4G LTE high-speed Internet connectivity.

"With 4G LTE capability and now wireless charging, Cadillac is embedding conveniences that have quickly become essential customer needs," Ken Kornas, Cadillac ATS global product manager, said in a statement.

Contact Nathan Bomey: 313-223-4743 or Follow him on Twitter @NathanBomey.


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Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)

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