Wireless giant Qualcomm has jumped into the electric vehicle market by acquiring the assets of a company called HaloIPT out of New Zealand that has developed wireless electric car charging tech. HaloIPT, a company that commercialized research from The University of Auckland, uses wireless induction for charging and has created a device or mat that an electric car drives over (or drives near), and which can wirelessly charge the car without it plugging in.
The move is important because Qualcomm has long been a leader in the wireless and mobile industries — moving into mobile data and location-based tech before competitors — and now signals that it sees potential in the electric vehicle charging market.
Qualcomm didn’t release terms of the acquisition, but HaloIPT was a tiny company, so the payout was likely modest. Even so, Qualcomm has a tendency to buy under-the-radar IP early in a market and carefully cultivate it.
Electric vehicles are still a slow-moving and small market in many countries in the world like the U.S. Nissan has sold about 10,000 electric Nissan LEAFs globally. Tesla has sold between 1,600 and 2,000 electric Roadsters. But many companies think the tide is turning, and that electric cars will one day make up a substantial portion of the cars on the road. President Obama has pledged to get 1 million plug-in cars on the U.S. roads by 2015.
The auto giants have already started to choose partners and acquire assets in the wireless electric car charing market. Toyota has both invested in and partnered with wireless charging company WiTricity. Nissan, which rolled out its electric LEAF last year, has been working on its own wireless charging technology. General Motors has invested in and partnered with wireless charging developer Powermat. Other startups have launched in recent months, like Evatran, which is a Virginia-based wireless charging technology developer working on EV wireless charging that has high efficiency.
Qualcomm sees batteries as one of the biggest barriers to the world of mobile computing, so it has a long history of working on efficient device charging, and ways to maintain battery life. Who knows how Qualcomm will fold HaloIPT’s tech into its product arsenal, but clearly Qualcomm sees some potential in wireless charging and electric cars. And beyond electric cars, the future of the car will no doubt all be about connectivity. (Shameless plug: come check out our RoadMap event in San Francisco on Nov. 10, and I’ll be showing off a Tesla Model S Beta).