Hands-on with wireless charging in the Chevy Volt

CNET tries out the wireless-charging implementation in the Chevy Volt.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive 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.
Wayne Cunningham
Powermat wireless charging
Merely setting a phone down on the Powermat pad charges the battery, as long as the phone includes a Powermat inductive back. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

LAS VEGAS--At CES 2011, GM announced it would include Powermat's charging technology in its entire vehicle line-up, starting with the Chevy Volt. We took a close-up look of how Powermat implemented the technology.

Powermat put a Chevy Volt in its booth space at CES with its charging pads in front and back. This setup was conceptual, and GM will finalize the placement of the charging pads later. But the front pad, placed on the top of the center console, seemed a likely place. A pad between the rear seats is a less likely implementation, as GM probably would not compromise the seating room.

Powermat wireless charging
Powermat installed a charging pad on the Volt's center console, probably close to where GM will place it in production. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

For its demonstration setup, Powermat had an HTC phone fitted with one of its inductive power backs. The power back was very thin, adding very little to the size of the phone. The company offers inductive power backs and cases for just about every major smartphone.

The inductive connection between pad and power back is magnetic, so the phone snaps into place. Although the magnetic connection is a side-effect, it is perfect for cars as it keeps the phone in place while the car goes over speed bumps, takes corners, and stops.

As we put the phone into place, it immediately began charging. Although Powermat offered no hard figures as to charging rate, a spokeswoman suggested that it charges faster than a wired connection.

GM's intention to implement Powermat in all of its models should ensure wide use of the technology.