Qualcomm sold Halo, its wireless charging unit for electric vehicles, to WiTricity, a startup supported by venture capital firms. The startup is working hard to develop wireless charging technology for electric vehicles.
The terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Qualcomm said it would become a minority shareholder of WiTricity under the transaction agreement.
Although the size of the electric vehicle market is still relatively small compared to the gasoline and diesel vehicle market, the electric vehicle market is expected to achieve significant growth in the next decade— in the US, sales of electric vehicles have increased only last year. More than 80%, major automakers have promised to produce hybrid or electric vehicles from this year.
But one of the biggest challenges for electric car manufacturers is the charging problem: in short, this can be a real headache. As a result, many companies have been trying to expand the range of cars that can be charged with a single charge, and to make the charging process itself more convenient and smooth.
WiTricity, a company that was spun off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007, has been at the forefront of wireless charging technology development. It has raised nearly $40 million from big names like Intel and Foxconn for its research and development.
Qualcomm is more famous for its smartphone chip business. But as cars increasingly become an extension of consumers' connected mobile devices, the chip giant has also begun to enter the automotive field.
In 2012, Qualcomm established the Halo division after the acquisition of HaloIPT. Qualcomm has previously demonstrated its "dynamic charging technology" —— it will allow future electric vehicles to charge while driving. However, for now, the wireless charging technology of electric vehicles can only be charged after the car is stopped.
This technology uses inductive charging technology to transfer power through the air between the magnetic coils mounted on the road and the car. Earlier this year, BMW became the first major auto company to announce the introduction of wireless charging.
A charging solution that allows drivers to stop worrying about where to charge next time may affect the use of electric vehicles more than any other factor. In addition, it may have a major impact on the development of autonomous vehicles, as these vehicles will require a charging method that does not require human involvement.
Alex Gruzen, CEO of WiTricity, said: "WiTricity's wireless charging technology is the key to future automotive development. The cars of the future are obviously electric and increasingly shared and autonomous. Electric car drivers and teams need a simple, effortless charging experience. ”
The acquisition of WiTricity involves “some technology platforms and IP assets”. According to a statement issued by the two companies, these assets constitute more than 1,500 patents and patent applications related to wireless charging of electric vehicles.
Grücken added: “Incorporating Qualcomm Halo technology into the WiTricity portfolio will simplify global interoperability and significantly accelerate the commercialization process. This is an exciting time for WiTricity, automakers, potential electric car buyers, and any company that ultimately deploys autonomous car fleets. ”
The competitiveness of the electric vehicle industry has now become very intense. Oil giant Shell recently acquired Greenlot to accelerate the development of its electric vehicle charging program in North America. ChargePoint, the US charging pile, raised $240 million to expand its electric vehicle charging network. Moreover, ChargePoint is also investing in wireless charging technology.
The wireless charging technology for electric vehicles may still be in its infancy, but the integration of WiTricity and Qualcomm's Halo division should accelerate its development to some extent.
Qualcomm wireless charging consultant Steve Pazol added: “Qualcomm believes that under the leadership of WiTricity, electric vehicle wireless charging technology will be rapidly developed, which will greatly meet the needs of users. ”