* GM, Powermat in multiyear commercial deal for charging
* GM invests $5 mln in Powermat through GM Ventures
* GM has exclusive use deal for one year under agreement
* GM sees broad non-auto uses for wireless charging tech
By David Bailey
DETROIT, Jan 5 General Motors (GM.N) has
invested $5 million in wireless charging start-up Powermat and
will add its technology for small consumer electronics to its
vehicles such as the Chevy Volt in 2012, the companies said.
The investment through the GM Ventures capital unit will
support the small private company's development of the
technology that GM expects will be adopted quickly in the auto
sector and in other areas, GM executives said.
The move into wireless charging is part of a larger effort
by GM to build a reputation as a technology leader led by the
development of its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid that runs
first on electricity with a gasoline engine to extend its
GM, which emerged from a government-funded bankruptcy in
July 2009, completed the largest-ever IPO last year and plans a
sharp turnover of its vehicle lineup.
GM has a multiyear and multimillion-dollar commercial deal
for the Powermat technology that includes exclusive use for one
year to place the systems in vehicles worldwide, GM Ventures
President Jon Lauckner said.
"This is a technology that really transcends any particular
brand of vehicle, any particular market segment or any
particular customer group," Lauckner said.
The investment by the venture capital unit is convertible
to equity in Powermat within six months, Lauckner said. It is
the third publicly announced investment for GM Ventures, which
expects two more announcements shortly, he said.
The unit also has invested in electric car start-up Bright
Automotive and lithium ion battery developer Sakti3 Inc.
GM plans to show a Volt equipped with the wireless charging
devices at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on
Thursday. The demonstration car has charging mats in the front
console and in the back seat.
The Volt will be one of the first vehicles to receive the
wireless charging technology, but the automaker has not yet
decided which vehicles will receive the technology first, said
Micky Bly, leader of GM's electric car development efforts.
Initial testing of the technology found no significant
issues with adapting it to motor vehicles, Bly said.
"We are looking that we will have it sometime next year, in
the 2012 calendar year," Bly said.
"We see this going in across our portfolio and moving up to
high volume globally very quickly," Bly added.
Powermat, which was founded in 2007, has sold millions of
its wireless systems that can charge a smart phone, music
player, handheld games and other devices and expects "hockey
stick" type growth, Chief Executive Ran Poliakine said.
"GM is a very, very good partner for us, not only for the
automotive industry, but more in the context of what we are
trying to achieve," Poliakine said.
Powermat sees much wider applications for its technology
from airports to office furniture and kitchen appliances. The
company eventually foresees the ability to charge an electric
car just by parking it in the garage.
An expansion of Powermat technology to other automakers and
areas would suit GM as an investor, GM executives said.
"We want others to use this after we clear that exclusive
period because the higher volumes with other companies would
only help us to bring down the cost to consumers," Bly said.
(Reporting by David Bailey;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)