Electric car technology the New Zealand connection

Issue 34 – December 2011

Car travel is set to be transformed by revolutionary technology developed by researchers at the University of Auckland.

US-based Qualcomm – a world leader in wireless and mobile technology – recently acquired Inductive Power Technology (IPT) that was pioneered by Professor John Boys and Associate Professors Grant Covic and Udaya Madawala from the University of Auckland's Power Electronics Group. The researchers have led the world in developing systems to transmit electric power efficiently across air gaps without using wires.

Andrew Gilbert, Executive Vice President of European Innovation Development for Qualcomm, said at the time of the technology acquisition, 'Building on 20 years of development and innovation in wireless power at the University of Auckland and its commercialisation company Auckland UniServices Ltd, the HaloIPT team, in a relatively short period of the time, had established itself as a leading developer in wireless electric road vehicle charging – with HaloIPT winning industry acclamation and awards.'

Dr Peter Lee, Chief Executive of UniServices said the IPT is expected to become standard technology for electric-powered vehicles. 'Vehicles fitted with our technology will be able to charge overnight using electricity generated by renewable sources such as wind. Because there is a low demand for electricity at night, little or no extra installed generating capacity will be required to power our fleet of electric vehicles.'

In addition to the HaloIPT transaction, Qualcomm and Auckland UniServices have committed to a long-term research and development arrangement to promote continued innovation in the field of wireless charging for electric road vehicles by way of inductive power transfer. 'We dealt with Qualcomm because of its track record in establishing the universal global standard for other technologies like mobile phones. The likelihood of the technology being successful or reaching a global market is now more likely with Qualcomm,' Dr Lee said.

'This deal is fantastic news for New Zealand – we are providing access to technology in exchange for payments that will help ensure future investment in New Zealand research. There will be ample opportunity for New Zealand-based companies to become a part of the high-technology manufacturing required for these systems. We are already in discussions with some of them to make sure they are well positioned to capture benefit from this development.'

Following the public announcement of the technology acquisition, Qualcomm also revealed it would be conducting the first wireless electric vehicle charging trial for London. Qualcomm is collaborating with the UK Government, as well as the Mayor of London's office and Transport for London to deliver the trial. The pre-commercial trial is expected to start in early 2012 and will involve as many as 50 electric vehicles that will be designed using IPT.

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