How Wireless Car Chargers Work With Phones

Wireless charging has arrived, but is it in your car?

Wireless charging uses magnetic fields to transfer energy from a charger to a battery. Wireless phone chargers are game-changers when it comes to convenience, and it's even possible to use wireless phone charging in your car. Here's a look at how wireless charging in a car works, as well as how to take advantage of this technology.

If you're ready to implement wireless phone charging technology in your car, check out our list of the best wireless phone charging mounts.

A phone in a car that's ready for a wireless charger.
  Tomasz Zajda / EyeEm / Getty

How Does Wireless Charging Work?

Wireless charging technology is also referred to as inductive charging. A base station generates an electric field, which transfers energy to a compatible device via inductive coupling.

This type of charging is less efficient than charging systems that use conductive couplings, but because you don't have to plug them in, wireless chargers are easy and incredibly convenient to use.

Instead of plugging in a charger, set your phone or another compatible device on the wireless charging base station, and the device automatically starts to charge.

Wireless charging has been around longer than you might think. If you've ever seen an Oral-B electric toothbrush, you've seen inductive charging in action. Braun has been using this technology since the early 1990s.

While other industries were slower to adopt the technology, the first cell phone with built-in inductive charging was launched in 2009, the same year the Wireless Power Consortium introduced the Qi standard, which allows for interoperability between chargers and devices made by different companies.

Inductive Charging in Automotive Applications

The first automotive use of inductive charging was with electric vehicles. As far back as the late 1990s, a system called Magne Charge used inductive coupling to charge electric cars, although it was replaced by standard conductive coupling in the early 2000s.

Although inductive couplings are inherently safer in such applications, conductive couplings, with additional built-in safeguards, won out because inductive chargers aren't as energy-efficient as conductive chargers.

Today, inductive charging has made a reappearance in the automotive world, with wireless car chargers and mounts readily available for vehicles.

Many wireless phone charger setups are compatible with Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, as well as other technologies.

How to Charge Your Phone Wirelessly in Your Car

Some cars come with an OEM-installed charging station, but if yours doesn't have one, there are many aftermarket wireless charging setups available.

If your phone doesn't support wireless charging and you don't want to upgrade, inexpensive wireless charging adapters are a possibility. Some can even be installed directly into a phone case.

The two wireless standards are Powermat and Qi. Today, Qi is the clear leader in the smartphone world, especially since Apple chose Qi for its devices in 2017. If you own a phone that's already Qi-compatible, look for a Qi-based charger.

Some automakers went with the Powermat standard, so you may find yourself the proud owner of a Powermat-based wireless charger, whether you want it or not, at some point in the future.

Built-In Automotive Wireless Phone Chargers

Most car manufacturers that offer built-in wireless phone chargers use Qi wireless charging systems. Some, including GM and Mercedes, support both Powermat and NFC charging to expand the range of their wireless charging compatibility.

Select models from Chevrolet, Lexus, Cadillac, BMW, Audi, Buick, Chrysler, Ford, Jeep, Honda, and many more offer built-in charging. If your model doesn't support this technology, consider installing an aftermarket charger.

Aftermarket Automotive Wireless Phone Chargers

If you're one of the many vehicle owners whose cars aren't already equipped with wireless chargers, there are a slew of excellent aftermarket chargers available.

Most automotive wireless chargers have a sleek form factor that fits well into a car's design, including cradles, pads, holsters, and even chargers that fit into a cup holder.

Prices can vary considerably, from Belkin's $124 Boost Up Wireless Charging Dock to the $18.99 Yootech Wireless Charger. Before you buy, check out your options and find one whose design and price you like.

Qi-based wireless chargers are the most popular and available, supporting all iPhones and iOS devices, and many Android devices, including Samsung smartphones.