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Leading the way in motor technology


Newcastle University has been named a key player in a £16 million programme to investigate the benefits of high-speed motors for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Building on the research already being carried out at Newcastle to develop novel, sustainable and highly efficient motors for EVs, this new project will see the new motors being fitted into Jaguar Land Rover Evoque’s within the next two years.

Unlike the current EV motors which rely on rare earth metals such as Neodymium and Dysprosium, the new motors will replace these rare earth metals with new designs based on the most common of materials, iron.

Iron is not only much cheaper and less damaging to the environment, but also much more widely available – a key factor if we are to meet the expected rise in demand for hybrid and electric vehicles. The motors will also replace expensive and heavy copper with aluminium, considerably reducing the weight of the electric motor whilst increasing its longer term recyclability.

Funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the £16.3m ‘Evoque_e’ Project was announced this week at the Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2013.  Being led by Jaguar Land Rover, the consortium consists of eight industry partners and three universities including Newcastle.

James Widmer, who is leading the Newcastle part of the project, said: “This project offers a real opportunity to drive forward the efficiency and performance of electric vehicles and ultimately take us closer to creating a more sustainable transport system for the future.

“And this is not just a pipe dream – what this collaboration offers is an opportunity to turn Newcastle’s leading research into a real-life solution for the cars of the future. Within two years our motors along with other, novel technologies, will be showcased on our roads.

“It’s an excellent opportunity and we are delighted to be part of this new and unique collaboration.”
Starting in October 2013, the Evoque_e team will design, develop and build three research vehicles showcasing state-of-the-art, next-generation powertrain concepts for a mild hybrid electric vehicle, hybrid electric vehicle and a full Battery Electric Vehicle.

The partners include Jaguar Land Rover, Zytek Automotive, GKN Driveline, Motor Design Limited, AVL, Drive System Design, Williams Advanced Engineering, Delta Motorsport, Tata Steel, Newcastle, Cranfield and Bristol universities.

The aim is to tackle technology areas identified by industry, through the Automotive Council, as the most strategically important challenges facing the sector today.

Commenting on the new project, Business Minister, Michael Fallon, said:  "This is a groundbreaking project that brings together major strengths in automotive businesses, innovative SMEs and leading universities.

"It demonstrates the power of the collaborative approach encouraged by the Technology Strategy Board, and the importance of supporting innovative R&D to help bring about future manufacturing and growth.
"As we set out in our automotive industrial strategy, there are huge opportunities for us from being a world-leader in new technologies."

The new motors:

Rare earth metals are a range of minerals which have become increasingly important in the delivery of new and sustainable technologies ranging from electric vehicles to solar panels.

However their success in these applications has raised worldwide concern about the supply and environmental impact of mining these materials.

The market for electric cars and commercial vehicles is expected to grow five fold over the next decade from less than 2 million EV’s sold in 2010 to an estimated 49 million by 2020. But this $180 billion-industry will be held back unless cheaper alternatives can be found for the metals currently used in the construction of their electric motors.

“The pressure on supplies of rare-earth metals coupled with rising demand for this technology means the pressure is on to find an alternative,” explains Mr Widmer, based in the Centre for Advanced Electrical Drives at Newcastle University.

“In addition to this, extracting these minerals can be incredibly destructive to the environment. If we are to pursue electric and hybrid vehicles as a truly greener option then we need to look not only at the fuel but also the materials we are using to develop the various components.”

The research is part of the University’s on-going commitment to tackle one of the great societal challenges of our age – Sustainability – and this latest project will see the new-generation motors fitted in cars within the next two years.

Containing no expensive and scarce rare earth magnet materials and replacing copper with cheaper and more widely available aluminium, the new motor is capable of providing tractive power and acting as a generator in a cost competitive and suitable for high volume manufacture package.

This project will go beyond the current state of the art in low carbon vehicle drivetrains, developing a suite of technologies which will allow significant cost reductions in the electric vehicle drivetrain whilst simultaneously improving its performance.

published on: 9 September 2013