Developing cost-effective USB-based battery chargers for automotive applications

February 21, 2011 // By Abdullah Raouf, Sr.
Abdullah Raouf, Sr., of Pericom examines how to develop cost-effective USB-based battery chargers for automotive applications.

With the increasing availability and variety of portable electronic devices, developing an efficient and ecological battery charger strategy is becoming both an important marketing tool as well as a requirement to meet local regulations.   For example, the European Commission and Chinese government have begun to mandate that all cell phones must charge through micro USB connectors to eliminate the need for consumers to purchase (and subsequently discard) a charger with each new phone they buy.   With the multifunctional capabilities of most portable devices - today's cell phones also serve as a mobile Internet connection, email on-the-go, music player, and entertainment device - users need to be able to charge devices frequently.   For many users, the drive to and from work provides an excellent opportunity to recharge devices.

With USB now serving as the main connector for most cell phones today, auto manufacturers around the world are increasingly integrating USB into the vehicle console to serve as both a data connection and as a universal charging interface.   An integrated USB port provides many benefits directly to consumers, including allowing handsets to be connected with the low-cost USB cables they come packaged with and eliminating the expense of a $20 to $40 cigarette lighter charger for use in each car the consumer drives on a regular basis.   Cigarette lighter-based chargers are also often bulky, ugly, and stick out in a way that can interfere with driving.   A direct USB connection, in contrast, is small and can be flush with the dash or easily hidden under the arm of the seat or in the center console.   Its streamlined design is also more aesthetically appealing to consumers, raising the overall perceived ease-of-use of the vehicle.

Introducing USB into automobiles as a battery charger technology, however, is not without challenges. Consumers are used to fast charging times when using a wall-based charger, and they expect the same performance

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