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UQM Awarded $749,000 USAF Contract to Develop Electric Wheel Motors

UQM Technologies, a developer of alternative energy technologies, has been awarded a $749,000 Phase II contract from the US Air Force to develop electric wheel motors for aircraft ground support vehicles under the Small Business Innovation Research program. Work under the Phase II contract is expected to occur over a two-year period.

This contract is a follow-on to the Phase I contract awarded last summer, and provides for the development and delivery of an all-electric aircraft material handling vehicle. The vehicle will be tested at Robins Air Force Base under the management of the Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) of the 542nd Combat Sustainment Wing.

The application of electric wheel motors to this category of vehicle eliminates the conventional driveline including the transmission and differential, resulting in less complexity (gearing) and improved efficiency, which equates to greater run time per charge.

Since each wheel is independently powered and controlled, the vehicle can have better traction through two- or four-wheel drive, and most importantly, improved maneuverability and precision control—critical in the close confines of aircraft on the tarmac.

In addition, the development of compact electric wheel motors will potentially allow for their introduction on a wide range of commercial ground support and material handling equipment including forklift trucks and other warehouse vehicles.

We are pleased that the Air Force has selected us to further develop and integrate our electric propulsion systems in this category of vehicle. We are excited about the opportunity to apply the results of this project to not only aircraft support equipment but also to a broad range of commercial vehicles of similar size and weight.

—Ron Burton, UQM Technologies, Vice President-Operations


allen Z

Less reliance on airfield tractors, and ability to operate from remote airstrips/strips of roads powered by onboard auxilary power unit. Aircraft carriers would use this for moving aircraft into position without tractors, or using higher power settings on main engines. Thus saving fuel and engine hours, while decreasing a hazard, heat/thermal signatures (infrared detection), and flight deck clutter.

allen Z

...without tractors, and without using higher power settings...

Adrian Akau

How about a vehicle with this type of wheel system for the public. It seems to be simple enough for a good EV.


Adrian, it will take time to ensure it will handle the rigors of rough roads (bouncing a motor, unsuspended could be quite harsh). Additionally, the extra unsprung weight makes it more difficult to provide comfort and handling in a vehicle.

Randal R. Banik

Phoenix cars is using a UQM propulsion system with Altair batteries to create such a vehicle


In-wheel electric motor is fairly old idea, and actually was successfully implemented on variety of vehicles, notably on huge mining trucks. Half a dozen companies currently developing advanced in-wheel electric motor drivelines for different applications, look for example at

However, as rightfully pointed Patrick, this design carries quite substantial unspring mass, which adversely affect quality of ride and most important, forces tire to loose grip on a road imperfections while cornering at high speed. Reduction of unspring wheel mass always was of highest priority for automotive designers, hence light alloy wheels, light alloy suspension elements, aluminum brake calipers (available on Toyota Camry), ongoing development of light weight brake disks, light weight tires, and even titanium wheel nuts on Porsche. Very doubtful in-wheel motors will be employed on passenger cars. Alternative approach is use of conventional drive shafts with U-joints, with axle differential or with individual electric motor for each wheel fixed to the frame.

On some applications, like low-speed vehicles, or the most advanced military truck from Oshkosh, this system is probably the best.

Harvey D.

A Dutch company has already built a large city bus with such powerful in-wheel electric motors. Two or three Japanese firms + Hydro-Quebec + others have done the same for samller vehicles.

Mounting the four (4) electric motors on the frame (as suggested by Andrey) would solve the unsprung weight + road hazard problems associated with in-wheel motors for cars and SUVs.


It's nice to see that we are slowly getting there. Sooner or later we will all be driving vehicles that do not have convential transmissions.

Nay-sayers do little to advance new concepts.

Instead of using old solutions to new problems, let's open our minds.




mike, could you put an "earlier" post link to the Phase I page? also, what was the outcome of phase 1?


FYI, wheel motors go back to Porsche in 1897.

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