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Exclusive interview on latest developments for Qualcomm by Joe Barrett, Senior Marketing Manager

05 April 2013

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Qualcomm is developing its wireless electric vehicle charging solution, improving their product step by step, knowing that like most companies involved in the EV business, they won’t generate any profit for some time; however, they know they need to keep investing now to prepare a product the market will want to buy. Read the latest developments below, collected by at EV Japan 2013. In June, we talked about your history working with the EV industry, wireless technology in general, role of standards, future of EV charging and more. 7 months is a short period, but we heard you have some exciting news from your R&D department. Can you tell us about the latest technology and market developments?

Joe Barrett: At a technology level we have now brought in Foreign Object Detection (FOD). We can detect and suspend charging (or actually not even start charging) if there is a metallic object on the ground pad. It is a safety issue: any metallic object would get hot if it is in the magnetic field. We have to comply with many requirements before deploying anything into the field and are working with the manufacturers to address these requirements to ensure that the technology is adopted. What makes your WEVC technology superior to that offered by the competition? Can you be specific in terms of real life performance and trial results?

Barrett: It is more than just the technology; it is also about the capability of Qualcomm and what we do. The first advantage we have is with regards to our capacity to bring new technologies to the market. That is what we have been doing for the past 26 years. We are a 19 billion dollar annual revenue company; we spend around 4 billion dollars annually on R&D.

The second advantage is our consumer-friendly technology. There are different types of technology used for wireless charging. Most companies are using circular pads and generally the circular pad technology requires you to be very precisely aligned, which means two pads have to be exactly matched in alignment, and that can be quite difficult. Companies are talking about specific automatic alignment techniques, which all add complexity and cost to the system. Our technology is very tolerant to misalignment whether it is lateral or vertical so you can park in the charging bay as normal, and providing you are in the zone it will charge at an efficiency of around 90%. We are actually looking to increase that efficiency to above 90%, which makes it comparable to plug-in charging. Can you tell us about the patents you already have for wireless charging for the EV sector?

Barrett: Yes, we do invest heavily in R&D and file patents. We have also been working with the University of Auckland in New Zealand who has been developing wireless power for the last 20 years. We have an agreement with them, and we have combined our respective technology to bring the product to market. What is your solution for the metallic object recognition problem?

Barrett: We have our own solution for detecting metallic objects that are in the area of the magnetic field. While we are not discussing the technique in detail we have demonstrated that we can detect even quite small metallic objects such as a paper clip and instantly turn the system off or even not energise the system if a metallic object is on the pad. You also mentioned the organic matter.

Barrett: Yes, we call that “Living Object Protection” (LOP) so it is protecting and identifying any living objects that come within the magnetic field. There are regulations and associated limits for RF exposure to the general public and agreed EMC limits; including those defined by the ICNIRP guidelines for limiting exposure to time-varying electric and magnetic fields. Any commercially deployed WEVC system must meet these regulated requirements Today you are exhibiting at the key Asian event – EV Japan. How important are the Japanese and Asian markets for you?

Barrett: The Japanese market is very important for Qualcomm, because key manufacturers are here and there is a lot of R&D around electric vehicles. Tokyo is a very good example of a city that could benefit from electric vehicles because as with many megacities there are air quality and pollution issues. The World Health Organization predicts we are moving from 3 billion people living in cities to 5 billion by 2030, which means a large strain will be put on infrastructure and transportation in particular, and in terms of health-related problems cost billions of dollars every year. What are the major differences in the Asian, European and American markets when it comes to WEVC?

Barrett: The main difference is timing. Some of the key markets in Europe (Germany, the U.K., particularly France) are likely to be the first to have wireless charging. That is why we are running a Wireless EV Charging trial in London. Asia, Japan and Korea, are expected to follow; with the US, following on from there. China is an interesting market that we are keeping an eye on. Do you already cooperate with some major global EV or PHEV manufacturers?

Barrett: We had good success with the prototype Rolls Royce, demonstrating the technology at CES in Las Vegas in January 2013. Renault are partners in the London trial and we demonstrated wireless EV charging on a Fluence in November 2012. Car sharing is an ideal opportunity because after renting, the driver does not have to plug in to charge – they just park in the charging bay. We are also looking at introducing taxis to the London trial. Toyota just announced the commercialisation of their wireless technology by 2015. Do think the market is ready to move towards wireless charging as soon as next year?

Barrett: Our focus is to get wireless charging into mass-production. Our business model, is to license the technology to the large Tier 1 automotive suppliers. Can you give us an update on the wireless charging trial in London. Are there first results already?

Barrett: The first results will probably come out towards the end of 2013. We are starting off by having people drive electric vehicles that are just plug-in, not wireless, so they get an experience of what it is like using the car with just a plug-in charge. Then we will upgrade those vehicles to wireless so that the customers will have a comparison and we can get some quantitative data, so we can see how often they are charging with both solutions, and also qualitative data of how easy and how they like each system. How about your V2G activities? What are the developments in this field?

Barrett: We have always said that we can do vehicle to grid. It is not something that we are supporting at the moment. It is part of our research and development road map so we will be looking at V2G the same way we will be looking at dynamic charging. Would you like to add something about the dynamic charging, have there been new developments in the last 6-7 months?

Barrett: We see the ultimate deployment of wireless charging within semi-dynamic situations, which is, for example, taxis in a line – moving slowly forward and charging while they are waiting for a fare, to charging at traffic lights or junctions. It is a little bit easier than dynamic charging because you are moving slowly but we are looking at systems now for dynamic charging where you embed the technology into the road.

You can actually envision a situation, in 5-20 years, where there are dynamic charging highways and lanes from competing companies, so you can select which charging system you want. One possibility is that this is combined with other technologies that Qualcomm is developing which include direct short-range communication, where the direct short-range communication (DSRC) is vehicle to vehicle helping collision-avoidance. That means you could platoon vehicles (drive closely with the lead car managing the speed of vehicles behind), in the charging lane, increasing road capacity. Any additional thing we should know about Qualcomm?

Barrett: One additional thing is that starting in 2014, there will be a Formula Electric racing series under the FIA, which also runs the Formula 1 racing series. Qualcomm is sponsoring Drayson Racing over the next 18 months to promote Qualcomm Halo™ Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC) technology during the launch phase of the new FIA Formula E Championship. The interesting thing about the formula electric is that they will be in cities - the first one to sign up has been Rio de Janeiro; the fact that they are in cities means that it will be easier for people to get to. The ultimate goal for Formula E is a dynamic formula electric race where the cars are charging while they are driving and racing. The dynamic charging system would then be left in situ and taxis or busses could then use the charging system.


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