Slowly but surely, car makers are adapting to the smartphone age.
First came increased connectivity with features like Ford’s Sync AppLink and in-car Wi-Fi hotspots. Now, Toyota and other car makers are planning to add wireless charging pads to their vehicles, so drivers with supported smartphones can power up without clumsy cables.
Toyota says it plans to offer wireless charging in its 2013 Avalon high-end sedan. Chrysler also plans to offer a $200 wireless charging option in next year’s Dodge Dart, but it’ll be handled by Mopar, the company’s after-market arm.
Wireless charging isn’t a new idea–phones like the failed Palm Pre included the feature back in 2009—but it’s starting to see a resurgence. LG’s Nexus 4, Nokia’s Lumia 920 and HTC’s Windows Phone 8X all have wireless charging capabilities built in. Nokia’s Lumia 820 and variants also support wireless charging with an optional shell.
The problem, as Techhive’s Melissa Perenson pointed out, is that multiple groups are competing to be the standard in wireless charging, which can lead to compatibility issues and confusion. Toyota is using the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi standard, the same one used by the phones listed above. Chrysler hasn’t said what its charger uses, but it relies on a special charging case designed to fit a variety of phones.
Car makers may also need to play around with the design of their wireless charging systems to get it right. The Toyota Avalon’s charging pad will be located on a tray below the center dashboard, but from the company’s demo video, it’s not clear how the tray will prevent phones from tumbling out during a sharp turn.
So while the pieces are falling into place, it’s still early days for wireless charging in cars. And like any early adopter product, it’s expensive: As Engadget notes, the Avalon Limited has a price tag of $42,195.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.