But GM (GM) might have a bigger goal in sight. The deal with Powermat offers the possibility that someday soon electric cars could be recharged without plugging them in.
GM will take a $5 million stake in Powermat, a company that sells cordless charging units for home use. It is making the announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
A fully charged Volt can be driven 25 miles or more on electric power alone. "We couldn't think of a better platform to show this cutting-edge technology," said Micky Bly, executive director for GM electrical systems. The collaboration will "allow us to have a significant head start on this wireless technology."
Powermat, founded in Israel in 2007, says automotive applications have long been part of its plan. Powermat CEO Ran Poliakine says besides cordlessly recharging portable electronics, the system can be used with special cups to keep coffee hot and soft drinks cold. "We want every car in GM to have this wireless charging system to help consumers charge everything they have without the hassle of plugs," he said.
But the larger opportunity might be recharging the batteries of electric cars without having to plug them in. Poliakine says Powermat has already demonstrated the capability. It holds the prospect of being able to park an electric car atop a charging mat at a shopping center, office, airport or at home and have it wireless recharged. "It is part of this whole vision," he says. He declined to estimate how soon such a technology might be rolled out.
The best application for such cordless charging would be public stations, says Chelsea Sexton, an electric-car activist who was among the first to receive a Volt for long-term testing.
"It's a nice little convenience," Sexton says.