Toyoda Gosei partners with emerging American company
Toyoda Gosei has invested in an American startup and will use that company’s technology to achieve commercial applications of wireless power transfer by 2024. This new technology allows electronic devices to be powered or charged over distances up to about 10 meters with electromagnetic waves. After starting with home lighting and other uses, they will also apply the technology to electric vehicles. With joint development by Toyoda Gosei and the startup, this has the potential to be a leading major project.
Home lighting, CASE applications by 2024.
Toyoda Gosei has established a corporate venture capital (CVC) department backed by roughly three billion yen, and has so far announced investments in seven companies in the area of CASE (connectivity, autonomous, sharing, electrification) technologies for automobiles. The individual investment amounts and some other cases have not been fully divulged, but the total amount invested is thought to be about 1.5 billion yen, or a little more than 100 million yen per company. One of these areas of investment is wireless power, based on the technology of American partner Ossia.
Transmitters set in home and office ceilings, similar to ceiling lights, direct electromagnetic waves toward terminal devices for charging. An advantage of Ossia’s technology is that electromagnetic waves are made to reflect off of walls so that they do not directly hit the human body. Toyoda Gosei is looking into systems that can be supplied to home electronics manufacturers.
Development will initially focus on devices that use small amounts of electricity, such as room lights and sensors. They are also looking at CASE-related applications for connected automobiles, electric vehicles, and other new automobile technologies.
Toyoda Gosei plans to achieve consolidated sales of one trillion yen by the end of the 2026 fiscal year (the forecast for the end of the 2021 fiscal year is 715 billion yen). This includes an increase in non-automotive areas to 100 billion yen starting from nearly zero.
One area of growth is wireless power transfer, for which research began in 2014. With the adoption of CASE, the number of wires in vehicles is expected to increase with more onboard sensors and electrification, increasing vehicle complexity. One aim of wireless power transfer is to allow for greater freedom in vehicle design.
For users of next-generation mobility as a service (MaaS), Toyoda Gosei is also considering a charging service for smartphones that remain in users’ pockets, purses, or bags.
One thing the company emphasizes in its investments is speed. Daiichiro Kawashima, Deputy Chief of the Product Planning Center, says that “Through our partnerships with startups, we are acquiring technology that is just beyond our reach at the moment.”
The company’s solid finances also support its active investment in startups. Cash on hand as a percentage of total assets (cash ratio) is more than 18%, the second highest after Toyota Boshoku of the eight major companies in the Toyota Group. At the end of fiscal 2021, profits are expected to have grown dramatically from the sales stage.