Wireless power revolutionizes car manufacturing: Interview with Solace Power CEO Neil Chaulk

Yusin Hu, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

Neil Chaulk, CEO of Solace Power; Credit: Solace Power

The automobile industry is going through some fundamental changes. More and more technology companies are eyeing the electric vehicle (EV) market, planning either to build their own cars or to contribute their solution to improve the experience of drivers and passengers while in a car.

Having spent eight years innovating wireless power, Canada-based Solace Power is bringing a new brand of wireless power into the new EV industry. Its technology, known as Equus, differentiates from the extremely high-power EV charging solutions and the existing Qi-based standards that are meant to only charge mobile devices. Limitations of Qi include low power levels and range, while Equus can reach up to 400mm in range and provide higher power levels as high as 1,000 watts.

Neil Chaulk, CEO of Solace Power, mentioned that Equus can achieve that without requiring heavy, expensive ferrite shielding and typically maintains 75% efficiency with objects standing within its power field. With significantly higher power levels and common, low-cost shielding materials such as copper and aluminum, Solace Power is ready to bring its wireless power technology into the automotive industry.

Not limited by mobile device-focused industry standards, Solace Power provides an open solution that is used in aerospace, telecommunication, medical devices, and automotive industries. Solace Power's clients include BMW, Boeing, Ford, and other tier-one carmakers around the world. Their technology is also currently being qualified for aircraft use. For the automotive market, Chaulk said they are focusing on mainly licensing their technology to carmakers and suppliers for now.

Revolutionizing car manufacturing

Solace Power's wireless powering technology can eliminate the cabling problems that make challenges for carmakers as more and more systems will be needed in an EV. Electric cars will be equipped with a variety of computer systems that could improve the driving experience, it being autonomous driving, in-car infotainment, or safety-enhancing sensors, etc., and going wireless will enable these systems to work in harmony without tangling all the power cables and data cables. This capability can improve manufacturability and maintenance as well as enable entirely new use cases.

Solace Power has successfully completed power coupling prototypes for a number of autonomous vehicle seats. Equus can be built-in removable infotainment systems and movable glass in automobiles without plugging into power plugs, which "can save the manpower needed for solving wiring problems".

Another important feature that Equus holds proudly is that it does not heat up any metallic objects standing within the power field. Since the safety issues over EV battery overheating have come to the world's attention, this is particularly important for wireless power to accomplish.

Disruptive technology

As the EV revolution forces the car industry to innovate, Chaulk added that "many of the OEMs view this as a disruptive technology that will allow them to improve manufacturing or improve their customer experience".

Chaulk also noted that "wireless power is still a new concept for traditional OEMs", and they believe wireless power will allow the traditional OEMs to move the automobile from simple transportation to more of a consumer-oriented, feature-rich device. The car revolution sparked by Tesla has forced the old-fashioned OEMs to change and posed quite some challenges for them to keep up. Solace Power's mission is to contribute to the revolution and help carmakers move forward.