Auto, Business, Hardware

To Reduce Cable Clutter in its Vehicles, GM Funds Wireless Charging Startup

General Motors (GM) is exploring ways to eliminate cords while charging cell phones and other hand-held devices in its vehicles.

At the CES 2011 show, they announced a cool $5 million investment in wireless charging start-up Powermat.

This is the first time an OEM manufacturer has addressed charging wireless devices in a vehicle.

Micky Bly, GM’s executive director of hybrids and battery electric vehicles, said the Chevy Volt “will be one of the first applications, but we intend to expand it across our vehicle portfolio.”

The CES-display Volt features two charging pads: one behind the shifter and the other in the back seat. Check out the below video to see how it works.

Powermat technology allows a small battery-powered electronic device to be quickly recharged without using a separate power supply and power cord. A small electronic adapter is snapped to the back of a wireless device and placed on the Powermat for recharging. This will add Powermat technology for small consumer electronics to GM vehicles such as the 2012 Buick and Cadillac.

Powermat CEO Ran Poliakine explained that they were founded in 2007 and have sold millions of its wireless systems. Those systems can charge many devices, including smart phones, music players, and handheld games and they expect “hockey stick” type growth. GM Ventures President Jon Lauckner said they have a multiyear and multimillion-dollar commercial deal for the Powermat technology that includes exclusive use for one year to place the systems in vehicles worldwide.

GM obviously sees the advantage of having a single, semi-universal charging point, instead of adding additional plug-in points. Many cars not only have the original cigarette lighter power access. They have an additional power connectors with various plug-in locations.

Each of those power points adds hardware cost as well as the problem of finding a “convenient” place to put them. The investment by GM’s venture capital unit is convertible to equity in Powermat within six months, Lauckner said. He noted that it is the third publicly announced investment for GM Ventures, which expects two more announcements shortly.

In June 2010, GM created a venture-capital subsidiary with initial funding of $100 million to develop new technologies. GM’s venture capital unit also has invested in electric car start-up Bright Automotive and lithium ion battery developer Sakti3.