GM Invests $5 Million to Develop In-Car Wireless Charging Mats

Wireless charging mats for small electronic devices have become more prevalent in households throughout the United States, but General Motors may be one of the first firms to install the technology in vehicles. Today, the automaker announced at the Consumer Electronic Show that it would be partnering with Powermat to design and produce a conductive charging system in its future vehicles.

The idea sounds simple enough, but may prove to be a boon, particularly as drivers continue to import and network numerous portable devices with their vehicles. Inductive charging would allow owners to free their center consoles of the clutter typically associated with conventional charging cords.

“Imagine a mat or shelf where you could put your iPhone, your Droid, or other personal device,” said Micky Bly, GM’s lead electronics executive, in a prepared release. “[It could] charge automatically while you commute to work, run errands, or while you’re driving on a family vacation.”

As part of the agreement, GM Ventures -- GM’s in-house venture capital group that actively seeks to invest in new technologies -- will invest nearly $5 million into Powermat, which was founded in 2007. GM expects the investment to expedite the rollout of the technology, and also give it a leg-up on the competition. Per the contract, the automaker will have a full year of exclusive access to the in-car charging method, but GM widely expects the feature will eventually become a mainstay in the automotive industry going forward.

“This is a technology that really transcends any particular brand of vehicle, any particular market segment, or any particular customer group,” John Lauckner, president of GM Ventures, told Reuters in a recent interview.

Although the feature is expected to work its way into Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles beginning mid-2012, the first model slated to receive the inductive charging mats is (ironically) the Chevrolet Volt. Bly notes the feature will subsequently be expanded “across [GM’s] portfolio.”

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