Toyota adds Qi wireless-device charging to 2013 Avalon’s long tech menu (video)

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Nick Sitarski, Avalon's Senior Engineer for Electrical Systems, was the primary designer of the 2013 model’s Intellitouch capacitive switches and wireless charging system. Here he holds an eBin lid embedded with wireless charging electronics.

The 2013 Avalon is the first car certified to the Qi standard for in-vehicle wireless charging of cell phones, according to Toyota. The technology will be made available as an option by spring and be offered as part of the Technology Package in the all new fourth-generation version of the premium midsize sedan, said Avalon Chief Engineer Randy Stephens in a recent interview.

Work on the wireless technology started in January/February 2012, according to Nick Sitarski, Senior Engineer for Electrical Systems, Avalon—too late for the car’s initial release to dealers in December.

“Throughout the development of the new 2013 Avalon, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in the development of many of the unique features, such as Intellitouch capacitive switches or the multicolor TFT displays. However, just when I thought my role in the Avalon was done, we decided to develop a wireless charging system.”

The transmitter is packaged in the sliding lid of a center-console storage bin that is designed specifically for electronic devices. Toyota calls it an eBin. For wireless charging, one places the cell phone on top of the eBin lid. Drivers can opt for wired charging also.

A big engineering challenge, Sitarski said, was maintaining full sliding-lid functionality even with a cell phone placed on top of it. In addition to packaging the transmitter inside the lid, an important consideration was the selection of a material for the lid so cell phones do not slide around too much.

“Through our testing under normal driving conditions, we are confident it will stay in place and not lose charging,” Sitarski said.

The wireless charging system is supplied by Denso based on technology developed by ConvenientPower and Philips Lite-on Digital Solutions. It operates under the Qi wireless charging standard developed by the Wireless Power Consortium.

Toyota claims the 2013 Avalon Limited is the first vehicle available offering in-console Qi wireless charging for Qi-enabled mobile phones and devices.

A few cell phone models will have built-in Qi compatibility. Some phones currently on the market can be made Qi-compatible via accessories such as a sleeve or back cover.

Wireless charging will be included in the Avalon's Technology Package, which also includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, and a precollision system.

Toyota engineered a hybrid version of the Avalon in addition to the conventional V6 gasoline version. It uses a modified version of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system used in the Toyota Camry Hybrid (Avalon shares Toyota's K platform with the Camry and Lexus ES) and delivers a combined 40 mpg vs. the gasoline-only version’s combined 25 mpg. See Avalon Hybrid article here: http://www.sae.org/mags/aei/11151

Technology highlights and achievements for the conventional and hybrid models include:

• A unibody that is 12% more rigid overall and 23% more rigid at the rear than the outgoing model thanks to incorporation of several grades of high-strength steel along with extra bracing and welds. Use of lightweight steel contributes to an overall vehicle mass reduction of 120 lb (54 kg) vs. the previous-generation Avalon.

• Industry-first Quadrabeam headlight cluster that utilizes a sleek and compact double-eye PES headlight design with two square glass condenser lenses for the low beams.

• Intellitouch capacitive switch technology for some, but not all, multimedia and audio functions.

• Highly styled lightweight seats from Johnson Controls and hand-stitched instrument panel cover.

• Toyota’s Entune connectivity system for accessing cell-phone apps via the car’s head unit.

• Paddle shifters.

• High-quality TFT multi-information display.

• Sport and Eco driving modes.

• 680-mi (1194-km) range on a full tank (17 gal/64 L) of gasoline in the 3.5-L V6 version.

Click here to watch a video of Toyota’s Calty Design President Kevin Hunter and the 2013 Avalon Chief Engineer Randy Stephens highlighting certain aspects of the car’s styling.

Click here to read a Q&A with Stephens.

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