Going Wireless

In by far the most significant technology transfer deal ever achieved by a New Zealand university, car travel worldwide is set to be transformed by revolutionary technology developed by The University of Auckland.

Wireless electric vehicle
Wireless electric vehicle

In a multi-million dollar deal, Qualcomm, a major US research and development company specialising in wireless communications, has acquired exclusive rights in and to certain wireless electric vehicle charging technology developed by the University of Auckland. Electric vehicles are predicted to begin an accelerated penetration into the automotive market traditionally dominated by internal combustion engines, by 2015.

Inductive Power Technology (IPT) was pioneered by Professor John Boys and Associate Professors Grant Covic and Udaya Madawala from the University’s Power Electronics Group. They have led the world in developing systems to transmit electric power efficiently across air gaps without using wires. Qualcomm also acquired the assets and technology of spinout company HaloIPT.

In May this year we published a story in Auckland Now on spinout company HaloIPT. The story that featured in Auckland Now is re-printed below.

Power trip

Driving through the congested streets of London is stressful enough without worrying about having to stop to plug in your electric car. Wireless technology, pioneered at The University of Auckland, aims to relieve the anxiety and encourage drivers to switch to cleaner, more efficient electric power.

Inductive Power Technology (IPT) uses magnetic fields instead of cables to recharge the car, says Anthony Thomson, CEO of London-based company HaloIPT. Rather than needing to be plugged, HaloIPT cars charge automatically when parked over a transmitting pad embedded in the road.

HaloIPT is one of the most exciting spin-outs from UniServices, the University of Auckland’s commercialisation company, and its technology has been taken up by UK companies including Rolls-Royce.

HaloIPT’s wireless charging pads are designed to transmit from under asphalt, through water, ice and snow and can power vehicles ranging from small city cars to trucks and buses.

“This is an enabling technology for electric vehicles because drivers don’t want the hassle of plugging in their cars,” says Anthony. “Having charging pads around the city will mean they will fret less about running out of charge.” Further down the track HaloIPT aims to link cities with “charging lanes” so vehicles can drive along the open road and pick up power en route.

HaloIPT is expanding in the UK thanks to financial backing from UniServices, Arup global engineering and design consultancy, the Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund and the NZ Venture Investment Fund. It has provided two IPT cars for the Technology Strategy Board’s electric vehicle trial - the first in the world to test wireless cars alongside plug-ins.

HaloIPT has also been asked to trial its technology in four electric-fleet vehicles owned by Transport for London, the city’s public transport provider, and for car-share schemes in Oxford and Copenhagen. And to prove that electric vehicles can be more than just ultra-urban shopping carts, the technology was recently showcased in a Rolls-Royce Phantom featured at the Geneva Motorshow. “Electric vehicles can be luxury cars too,” says Anthony.

While there is international competition to develop wireless charging for cars, Anthony says HaloIPT has the leading edge. “Our technology has superior performance with hardware that is less than 40 percent of the size and weight of competitors. That means lower cost too.”

Though the company is London-based, HaloIPT’s research and development is firmly planted in Auckland. The University’s Power Electronics Group, leaders in developing Inductive Power Transfer (IPT), are constantly refining the technology, looking for ways to improve performance, add features and integrate safety systems.

“Reducing size, weight and cost is key to the auto industry, so that’s a huge focus for the team,” says Anthony. “The technology is assembled and tested in Auckland so we can closely monitor quality.

“It feels like the electric vehicle has come of age. We have created world-leading technology for electric vehicles that will shape the way we drive in the future,” he says.