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The Future of Wireless Power

When Do We Get Real Wireless Power?

Wireless charging for electric cars isn’t going to become common before electric cars become widespread, and long-distance wireless power still has to prove itself as a technology. Near-field charging works but there are some hurdles to getting those new devices that don’t even have a power socket built in.

Order your new phone with a wireless charging back.

Order your new phone with a wireless charging back.

You can already buy a charging mat and order your new HTC phone or Verizon’s latest LG handset with a Qi wireless charging receiver built into the sliding back; that’s a step closer than having to buy the charging case afterwards, and lots of handset manufacturers are involved in the competing consortia. But to get near-field resonance coupling to be universal will probably mean WiPower and Qi converging into a single standard; Powermat has joined up with WiPower (even though one uses tightly coupled charging and the other loosely coupled) and there’s a CEA working group for wireless power, but we expect the competing systems to be in the market for some time. And they’ll all be bringing out more charging mats and adapters and embedded charging surfaces in cars. Five companies are making Qi modules and Qualcomm plans to start releasing WiPower systems in the second half of this year.

WiPower will be on sale sometime after the middle of 2011.

WiPower will be on sale sometime after the middle of 2011.

PowerBeam will be on the market even sooner with a “large consumer electronics company” selling its first product for the 2012 holiday season (which means it will be shipping by July and on show at CES in January, maybe in a private booth rather than on the show floor). There will be more devices in 2013, although CEO David Graham says real adoption comes when the price premium drops to around $20 in five to ten years.

As the coils for near-field wireless power charging get smaller, prices will drop.

As the coils for near-field wireless power charging get smaller, prices will drop.

 “We think we’re still in the early stages, admits Qualcomm’s Mark Hunsicker. “In the next year or two it’s still early adopters and innovators who are buying wireless power and we’re looking at 2014 or 2015 before we start to see a big change in growth curve. At that point the wireless power controller will be embedded in the main power controller [for the phone].” That’s going to bring the price down too.

 “Handset vendors are conservative people,” he points out; “Each of them is taking a little bit of a different approach and we don’t see a tipping point in the market yet. They still see connectors being on phones for a number of years.” But if other devices shift to wireless power more quickly, phone makes could speed up adoption and get the advantages of cutting the last cord.