Rivian Inductive Phone Charger Has a Major Flaw Even Though It's Seriously Overengineered

All modern cars have a wireless phone charger, at least for the upper trims. Rivian makes no exception, although few people got the inductive surface between the front seats to charge their phones. A teardown shows that, despite being seriously overengineered, the Rivian inductive charger has a major flaw.
Rivian inductive charging pad doesn't work 9 photos
Photo: u/hkb26 via Reddit
Rivian's inductive chargerRivian's inductive chargerRivian's inductive chargerRivian's inductive chargerRivian's inductive chargerRivian's inductive chargerRivian's inductive chargerTesla portable inductive charger
Many people praised Rivian for their outstanding job designing and assembling the R1T and R1S. The EV startup got many things right, although some areas need more polishing. One of them is the phone wireless charger in the center console, which, more often than not, fails to charge phones. The problem is so widespread that even the "teardown titan" Sandy Munro recorded himself with a third-party wireless charging pad in his Rivian R1T.

Many Rivian owners installed such solutions in their vehicles or used a wire to charge their phones from the USB ports in the center console. There are only two USB ports available, though, and one is usually occupied by the Gear Guard storage device. Thus, only one phone can be charged at any given time unless a powered USB hub is installed.

Some have tried their best to make their phones work with the original charging pad. Sometimes, they would start charging, but the current stopped flowing as soon as the phone moved. To make matters worse, the charging pad has a slippery surface, causing the phone to move a lot while driving. This makes charging a phone wirelessly in a Rivian EV almost impossible.

Some people even tried disassembling the charging pad to see why it was not working. Pictures shared online show that the Rivian inductive charging pad is a seriously overengineered device. It features a metallic base that looks like a military-grade portable computer. On top of it, there are 18 coils stacked on three layers.

Rivian's inductive charger
Photo: u/hkb26 via Reddit
The purpose of having so many coils is to allow charging a phone regardless of its position. Wireless charging requires the charger's coil to align perfectly with the one in the phone for minimal losses and efficient operation. With more coils, the phone's position is less critical. Only one is activated during charging, and that's the closest to the phone's coil. Still, because the coils are arranged on three layers in the case of Rivian's charging pad, some may be further from the phone's coil, although perfectly aligned.

This is why owners with smaller phones, with less protruding cameras and no case, reported some success. Those with big-camera phones or thick cases are usually out of luck, as this pushes the phone further from the charging surface. To make matters worse, the Rivian inductive charger has another layer between the coil layer and the charging pad. This is an NFC detection array that tells the computer what coils to turn on based on the phone's position.

It's intriguing how these issues escaped Rivian's quality control, as it's hard to believe that all the engineers had an iPhone 10 when they tested the charging pad. A quick look at the charging coils inside the inductive charger also shows that they are made of a thick copper wire, unlike Tesla's portable charging pad sold through Tesla Shop. This one has 30 coils on several layers, but they are made of significantly thinner copper wire, which might improve efficiency.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
Cristian Agatie profile photo

After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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