Wireless Charging: Why It’s Not in Every Car

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2015 Lexus NX Charging Pad

Keeping our phones charged is a major issue, especially on longer road trips. Batteries have gotten better, but we still need to plug in on the road and this can mean a messy power cord cluttering up the center console. It gets tangled on seat belts and catches on drinks in your cup holder, so the idea of wireless charging is very appealing. The problem is, no one can come up with a standard so every phone can easily be charged.

There are charging pads in some cars, but whether or not you can use them depends on the phone you happen to buy. These pads aren’t one size fits all, so an automaker is stuck trying to guess what most of its customers might want in their cars. It’s also a challenge for smartphone makers who are trying to figure out what will be the standard they should all adopt.

The Qi charging standard, pronounced “chee,” has been adopted by Android for its Galaxy S6 and by Microsoft for the Lumia. That’s all well and good, but if your phone doesn’t come with Qi charging built-in then you have to buy a special case or a sticky electronic receiver to make your phone work on Qi charging pads. These cost up to $100 making them an expensive phone enhancement.

Then there’s the question of Apple, which hasn’t gone with any kind of wireless charging standard. There are a lot of iPhones out there and picking a standard for your car that doesn’t work with whatever iPhone opts for would mean your fancy in-car charging pad is useless to a whole lot of people.

2016 Toyota Camry Charging Pad

Before Apple came out with the lightning cable, automakers were often including special 30-pin adapters so customers could easily connect their devices. Now, the cables are obsolete even though those cars are still on the road. It’s one thing to have a useless cable, but a built-in charging pad that does nothing is a whole lot of wasted space.

There’s also the perception by consumers that they’re paying for something they cannot use. Infotainment systems and connected car technology are a lot like cable television. You want one channel, but you have to pay for thirty as a part of some package. It’s aggravating paying for more than what you need and could steer consumers away from some cars.

According to Automotive News, Toyota faced complaints from Lexus NX buyers when they first sold all units of the car with Qi chargers. Customers complained about paying for this when they didn’t want it, so now only 35 percent of those cars come with Qi chargers.

Everyone wants to stay connected and charged, but no one wants to pay for something they can’t use. Without a standard, we’re all left guessing, and likely still fighting with a tangle of cables on our center consoles.

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin