Charge your gadgets without a powercord

CNET Car Tech looks at technology for charging cell phones and other devices just by setting them down on a special surface.

Car console
A cell phone and flashlight get charged sitting in this car console. Leggett and Platt

Imagine dropping your cell phone and MP3 player into a special pocket in the console of your car, and having them automatically charge up. Leggett and Platt, an automotive parts supplier, is using technology from Fulton Innovation that makes this scenario a reality. Fulton's ECouple technology lets devices charge up wirelessly, just by setting them down on a special charging surface. At CES, Leggett and Platt is showing various applications of this technology, including a car console with special pockets to recharge a BlackBerry and a flashlight. The company also has a Bosch power toolbox that automatically charges a wireless drill and saw.

Bosch toolbox
This Bosch toolbox recharges the tools it holds. Leggett and Platt

Of course, the devices being charged need to have an ECouple element that can receive the power from a charging surface, so you can't currently throw any old device in and have it get charged up. But Leggett and Platt is already releasing some in-car power tool charging boxes for commercial use. The charging surfaces come in three power levels: low is for devices less than 5 watts, medium can handle 100 watt charging, and high power charging surfaces can produce kilowatts. These charging surfaces are harmless to touch, and a Leggett and Platt representative assured us there were no dangerous radiation levels.

You won't see this technology in consumer cars any time soon, but it does have promise, as long as device makers integrate the ECouple technology.

About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.


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