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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Renault previews new production-bound EV motor and dual-fuel gasoline/LPG engine

December 12, 2014

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Renault’s new, more compact electric motor with integrated Power Electronic Controller. Click to enlarge.

Renault has previewed a new electric vehicle motor, designed by its engineers and manufactured at its Cléon plant in France, as well as a new dual-fuel gasoline/LPG combustion engine. Both are slated to enter production in 2015. Rémi Bastien, Renault’s Director of Innovation Engineering, noted that “The future of mobility calls for the same command of electric motor technology as it does of internal combustion engines. We are consequently active on every front, from internal combustion engines to electric motors and alternative energies.

New Renault electric motor. The synchronous electric motor with wound rotor develops 65 kW and peak torque of 220 N·m (162 lb-ft), and features an integrated Chameleon charger (earlier post). Integration, miniaturization and simplification were the three objectives that guided the design of this motor.

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GKN develops two-speed eAxle; in production on BMW i8

November 10, 2014

GKN has developed the first two-speed eAxle; the technology has entered production on the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, (earlier post) in which it provides power to the front wheels from a 96 kW, 250 N·m (184 lb-ft) electric motor. (A 170 kW/231 hp three-cylinder combustion engine in the BMW i8 drives the rear wheels.)

Production electric and axle-split hybrid vehicles have used single-speed transmissions; however, GKN said, using a fixed ratio limits electric drives in terms of either acceleration or top speed as they must disconnect at certain speeds to prevent the motor overspinning. GKN said its two-speed eAxle is the first in series production to enable the electric drive to boost the vehicle’s performance across its entire speed range.

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Honda beginning sales of Legend with 3-motor Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system in January; V6 with cylinder deactivation

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. will begin sales of the all-new Legend flagship sedan (its cousin is already on sale in the US as the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD) at dealerships across Japan on 22 January 2015. The fifth-generation Legend features the 3-motor Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system also offered in the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (earlier post).

Positioned at the front of the vehicle is a newly developed V6 3.5L direct injection i-VTEC engine and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with an integrated 35 kW electric motor. The rear-mounted TMU (Twin Motor Unit) contains two 27-kilowatt motors that dynamically distribute electric-motor torque to the rear wheels. Both the front and rear motors capture kinetic energy during vehicle deceleration and braking and convert it to electricity to supply the Intelligent Power Unit’s 72-cell, 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, located behind the rear seatback. Teaming up with a high-output lithium-ion battery, the control unit coordinates the operation of the engine and three motors.

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First look at all-new Voltec propulsion system for 2G Volt; “the only thing in common is a shipping cap”

October 29, 2014

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Cutaway of the new power electronics unit, which is much smaller than in gen 1, and which is now integrated into the drive unit housing. The power electronics and the motors use separate cooling: water for the PE and ol for the motor unit. Click to enlarge.

The second-generation Volt, which makes its world debut in about 10 weeks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, features a clean-sheet, all-new Voltec propulsion system—new battery, new electric drive unit, new power electronics and new range-extending engine. At an introductory media briefing on the new powertrain held at the Warren Transmission Plant in Michigan, where the new drive unit will be built, Larry Nitz, GM Executive Director, Transmission and Electrification, noted that the only common part between the gen 1 and gen 2 drive units was a little yellow plastic intra-plant shipping cap for the manual selector.

The battery cells, with a tweaked NMC/LMO chemistry from LG, increase storage capacity by 20% volumetrically when compared to the original cell. The drive unit features a large number of changes: new roles for the two motors, two clutches instead of three, and a smaller power electronics unit integrated into the housing among them. (No more big orange high-voltage cables underneath the hood.) The new direct-injected 1.5 liter engine with cooled EGR features a high compression ratio and is optimized to function in its range extender role.

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GM Warren Transmission Plant to build electric drive unit for second-gen Volt; part of $300M investment in Michigan through end of year

October 28, 2014

Later today at the Detroit Economic Club, General Motors CEO Mary Barra will confirm that its Warren Transmission Plant will build the new electric drive unit—the GM Voltec 4ET50 Multi-Mode EDU—for the upcoming second-generation Chevrolet Volt. As a result, most major Volt powertrain components—from the battery cells to the new 1.5-liter range-extending engine—will be made in Michigan, establishing the state as the company’s global engineering center of excellence for vehicle electrification. The new Volt will debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2015.

The drive unit for the first-generation Volt consists of two motors—a 111 kW main traction and 63 kW (at 4800 rpm) generator motor (55 kW generator output)—as well as three clutches and a planetary gear set tucked in the end of the traction motor that improve overall efficiency by reducing the combined rotational speed of the electric motors as needed. (Earlier post.) GM will subsequently be providing details of the second-generation drive unit.

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NIMS team develops new magnetic compound with lower neodymium content

October 20, 2014

A research group led by Dr. Kazuhiro Hono at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) has synthesized a new magnetic compound which requires a lower amount of rare earth element than the currently used neodymium iron boron compound.

The ratio of neodymium, iron and nitrogen in the new compound (NdFe12N is 1:12:1). Its neodymium concentration is 17% of the entire mass compared to 27% for the neodymium iron boron compound known as Nd2Fe14B, the main component used in the strongest permanent magnets. Furthermore, the intrinsic hard magnetic properties of the new material were found to be superior to those of Nd2Fe14B.

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Siemens integrates EV motor and inverter in single housing; common cooling and SKiN

October 17, 2014

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Siemens has developed a solution for integrating an electric car's motor and inverter in a single housing. Click to enlarge.

Siemens has developed a solution for integrating an electric car’s motor and inverter in a single housing. The motor and the inverter, part of the power electronics which converts the battery’s direct current into alternating current for the motor, have up to now been two separate components. The new integrated drive unit saves space, reduces weight, and cuts costs.

The solution’s key feature is the use of a common cooling system for both components. This ensures that the inverter’s power electronics don’t get too hot despite their proximity to the electric motor, and so prevents any reduction in output or service life.

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New “2-in-1” EV unit integrates traction motor and A/C compressor for increased range in hot climates

October 01, 2014

Engineers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have designed a “2-in-1” electric motor unit which can increase the range of electric vehicles in hot climates. This innovative electric machine integrates the A/C compressor, the compressor drive motor and the traction motor into a single housing physically clutching with the compressor during braking events.

The approach unifies the EV traction and compressor drives into a single housing which drive together during braking events. Based on simulations and analysis, the team expects the system to reduce battery consumption by at least 3% compared to existing mechanisms while improving the regenerative energy capturing capacity of the system by 8%. Overall, the novel design could increase the range of electric vehicles by an additional 15 to 20% with other modifications, the researchers suggested.

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DOE awards $17M for vehicle technologies; batteries, PEEM, engines, materials, fuel

August 21, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $17.6 million in 14 cooperative agreements with small businesses and institutions of higher education to develop and to deploy efficient and environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that will help reduce petroleum use in the United States. The awards made under an Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000988) issued in January. (Earlier post.)

The newly selected projects are in five areas: energy storage; power electronics and electric motors (PEEM); advanced combustion engines; materials technologies, and fuels and lubricant technologies. Awardees are:

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Researchers develop efficient technique to develop new materials with desired coefficient of friction

July 11, 2014

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) have developed a highly efficient method for developing friction materials with a desired frictional property. Using the new method, it would be possible to find the appropriate crystal preferred orientation for coatings with the desired value of the coefficient of friction.

The method, described in a paper in the journal Tribology Letters, could thus significantly accelerate the development of materials that have a friction coefficient suited to the purpose of use, such as low-friction materials for reducing energy loss and high-friction materials required for high-performance brakes.

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Project developing electrically conductive lubricants to protect electric motors from discharges in the bearings

June 12, 2014

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The effect of insulating (upper right) and electrically conductive (lower right) lubricants. The insulating lubricant (yellow coating) can cause electrical discharges (red lightning bolts), which can damage the bearing’s raceways. If the lubricant is conductive (green coating), no electrical discharges occur. Source: Bosch. Click to enlarge.

A joint research project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, is investigating the development of ionic-fluid-enhanced electrically conductive lubricants to protect electric motors from the surface damage that can result from electrical discharges in the bearings (electrical discharge machining, or EDM). The initiative was launched to prepare for future vehicles which will require higher voltages than current models.

At present, 12 volts provide all conventional automotive electric systems—from lights and radios to air conditioners—with sufficient power. Within the next few years, the figure may rise to 48 volts to support a growing number of functions. The voltage levels of electric and hybrid vehicles are even higher: these vehicles can require as much as 400 volts. Higher voltage levels result in stronger alternating electric fields in alternators and electric motors, explained Dr. Gerd Dornhöfer, a Bosch scientist taking part in the “SchmiRmaL” project (Switchable intelligent tribological systems with minimal friction losses and maximum lifespan).

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DELIVER electric light commercial vehicle demonstrator to make its debut at FISITA

May 28, 2014

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DELIVER. Click to enlarge.

Liberty Electric Cars, the European subsidiary of Green Automotive Company, has completed the build of the first fully functioning example of “DELIVER”—an electric light commercial delivery vehicle funded by the European Commissions’ 7th Framework Programme. DELIVER will have its world premiere at FISITA World Automotive Congress, which starts on 2 June 2014 in Maastricht (NL).

The DELIVER (Design of Electric LIght Vans for Environment-impact Reduction) project started in November 2011 with the goal of reducing the environmental impact in urban areas by 40%, along with delivering optimized ergonomics and loading space at affordable costs. Ten partner companies are involved in the design and construction of an electric light commercial vehicle.

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Kinetics Drive Solutions and Efacec collaborate on electric bus propulsion systems

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Kinetics’ NexDrive EV3-850 + PowerPhase HD electric drive system. Click to enlarge.

Kinetics Drive Solutions Inc. and Portugal-based Efacec Electric Mobility, S.A. are collaborating to deliver full-vehicle propulsion systems for electric buses. This solution is engineered to provide bus OEMs a fully integrated and optimized system that can be implemented on various platforms with minimal engineering development. Efacec’s first electric bus with the NexDrive solution will be deployed for field operation in July.

In April, UQM Technologies Inc. and Kinetics announced their collaboration to offer an integrated electric motor and multi-speed transmission system for commercial vehicle applications (earlier post); that system is used in the Kinetics/Efacec solution.

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Ames Lab researchers observe rare-earth-like magnetic properties in iron

April 29, 2014

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have observed magnetic properties typically associated with those observed in rare-earth elements in iron, albeit at cryogenic temperatures. These properties are observed in a new iron-based compound that does not contain rare earth elements, when the iron atom is positioned between two nitrogen atoms.

The discovery opens the possibility of using iron to provide both the magnetism and permanence in high-strength permanent magnets, such as those used in direct-drive wind turbines or electric motors in hybrid cars. The results appeared in Nature Communications.

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UQM Technologies and Kinetics Drive Solutions collaborate on electric drive systems for all-electric commercial vehicles

April 23, 2014

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EV3-850 combined with PowerPhase HD220. Click to enlarge.

UQM Technologies Inc. and Kinetics Drive Solutions Inc. are collaborating to offer an integrated electric motor and multi-speed transmission system for commercial vehicle applications that will benefit from a full system approach. This system is engineered to provide commercial vehicle manufacturers with an efficient electric drive powertrain while minimizing the development time for integration.

Advantages for customers will be a fully integrated and calibrated system that allows quicker time to market and reduced development time and cost, as well as fewer engineering variables. Systems will feature UQM PowerPhase HD electric motors and controllers combined with Kinetics NexDrive transmissions.

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Siemens and BAIC form JV to produce high efficiency electric powertrain systems for NEVs

April 21, 2014

Siemens AG and Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co., Ltd. (BAIC), one of the major Chinese carmakers, signed a joint venture agreement at the 2014 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition and outlined their plan to utilize Siemens’ electric drive train components in a range of BAIC new energy vehicles (NEVs).

The JV, Beijing Siemens Automotive E-Drive System Co., Ltd., will manufacture components for the electric drivetrain including power-electronics and electric motors. The new electric drivetrains consist of a safer and higher power density inverters and highly energy efficient motors. Prototype and small volume production will start in 2014, followed by mass production in a new Beijing-based factory in 2015. The production volume is planned to be more than 100,000 units per year with upside potential.

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First “MotorBrain” prototype shown; lightweight electric motor system with no rare earth metals

April 11, 2014

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MotorBrain prototype. Integrated unit is on the left, the motor core is at the right. Click to enlarge.

The four partners in the European research project ”MotorBrain”—Infineon Technologies, Siemens, the Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology at the Technische Universität (Technical University) Dresden and ZF Friedrichshafen—are presenting their first prototype of a lightweight electric motor system that requires no rare earth metals.

The €36-million (US$50-million) MotorBrain effort is one of the largest single European research projects in the area of electromobility. The MotorBrain prototype integrates the motor, gear drive and inverter. The prototype is three-quarters the size of models from 2011, the year when MotorBrain began; the prototype now being presented could fit in a conventional-sized laptop or notebook backpack.

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DOE awards $17M to FY 2014 SBIR Phase II projects; includes Si/graphene anodes, motor windings, exhaust treatments

March 31, 2014

The US DOE recently awarded $17 million to 17 FY 2014 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II projects to further develop Phase I projects and to produce a prototype or equivalent within two years. The selected 17 awards represent the best of nearly 1,000 ideas submitted for the FY 2012/13 Broad Based Topic Solicitation, DOE said.

The selected projects include 6 vehicle-related technologies and 2 hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, as well as new hydropower, heat pump, solar and manufacturing technologies. Vehicle technologies span a range from new Si/graphene Li-ion anode materials and composites for motor windings to diesel aftertreatment and advanced lubricants. Selected vehicle and hydrogen technology projects are:

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Lifecycle study explores production of NdFeB rare-earth magnets from primary production and recycling pathways

March 19, 2014

A lifecycle study comparing the virgin production route of neodymium−iron−boron (NdFeB) magnets with two hypothetical recycling processes found that recycling of neodymium, especially via manual dismantling, is preferable to primary production, with some environmental indicators showing an order of magnitude improvement.

The choice of recycling technology is also important with respect to resource recovery, the study by a team from the Netherland and the UK found. While manual disassembly allows in principle for all magnetic material to be recovered, shredding leads to very low recovery rates (<10%). The study appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Zytek lightweight electric powertrain for Yamaha’s MOTIV.e city car concept

February 21, 2014

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Zytek’s lightweight 25kW powertrain drives the Yamaha MOTIV.e through a Vocis single ratio transmission. A further development of the electric machine will deliver more power and torque from the same compact package. Click to enlarge.

Yamaha’s new MOTIV.e city car concept, shown at the Tokyo motorshow, is powered by an electric drive system from Zytek that employs a range of new design approaches to minimize the cost, weight and size of the powertrain while maximizing the performance and range. By supplying a number of core high-voltage components as an optimized system, Zytek is also minimizing the time required for vehicle development.

MOTIV.e comes from the partnership between Yamaha and Gordon Murray Design, using Murray’s iStream manufacturing technology; Murray has partnered in the past with Zytek on the T.27 City Car—the technology basis for the MOTIV.e. (Earlier post). Zytek Automotive, a specialist EV/HEV/fuel cell engineering consultancy, is a subsidiary of Continental, the global powertrain, chassis and interior products supplier.

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New 3-speed EV powertrain to offer 10-15% improvement in EV range

February 19, 2014

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Compared to a single-speed EV or HEV transmission, DSD’s MSYS 3-speed system provides a 40% weight saving and 10-15% lower energy consumption. Click to enlarge.

UK-based Drive System Design is developing a new EV powertrain based on an alternate approach to powershifting (no torque interrupt) achieved by separating the existing functions of a synchronizer. The integrated design of an axial flux YASA motor (earlier post) with the multi-speed transmission contributes to simplification of the motor cooling system, electrical architecture and powertrain control system.

The MSYS system can mean a 10-15% improvement in the range of electric vehicles, the company says. (Earlier post.) The company was recently showcased at the Cleantech Innovate 2014 event by the UK’s LowCVP organization (Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership), along with 7 other companies. DSD was the winner of a LowCVP commendation as the most impressive of the road transport-focused entries.

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Magnetic eCVT could replace conventional hybrid mechanical eCVT with likely 1-2% fuel economy improvement and other benefits

February 12, 2014

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MAGSPLIT is intended to replace mechanical eCVTs with a combination motor/magnetic gear. Source: Magnomatics. Click to enlarge.

At the SAE 2014 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium in San Diego, Chris Kirby, founder and Managing Director of UK-based Magnomatics, presented an overview of the company’s second-generation MAGSPLIT (Magnetic Power Split) eCVT system, a compact magnetic transmission designed to replace both the mechanical planetary gearset and motor/generator that form a typical hybrid powersplit system.

Preliminary testing results of a prototype of the magnetic eCVT presented at the conference suggest a likely 1-2% improvement in fuel consumption compared to a conventional hybrid system, along with the benefits of reduced system complexity, no lubrication, low battery charge swing (allowing either downsizing the battery or extending the life of the original size) and compact packaging. Much further testing and optimization remains to be done, Kirby noted.

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EVDrive demonstrates 4-wheel 4-motor torque vectoring technology for electric UTVs

January 27, 2014

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EVDrive torque vectoring. Click to enlarge.

EVDrive has developed and demonstrated an electric 4-wheel, 4-motor torque vectoring technology (Terra-Torque-Drive) specifically targeted at 4-wheel off-road powersports vehicles such as side-by-side Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs).

The Terra-Torque-Drive-powered e-UTV demonstrator uses four sealed liquid-cooled EVDrive EVD35 35kW/47hp peak drive sub-systems, de-tuned to ~30kW/hp each or delivering a total of ~160hp/120kW peak. At each motor shaft, ~66 ft-lbs (89 N·m) peak torque is delivered. The 4 gearboxes allow ratio changes with off-the-shelf gearsets. With the currently installed single speed gearsets at the CV joint of each wheel, 726 ft-lbs (984 N·m) peak torque is delivered. This is the kind of torque necessary to perform Zero Radius Turns with a fully loaded vehicle and perhaps even some extreme rock climbing.

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Renault Energy’s Sport F1 hybrid Power Unit; competing with intelligent energy management, not just power

January 22, 2014

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Exploded view of the parts of the power unit: 1.6l turbocharged V6 engine; battery; turbocharger; MGU-K; and MGU-H. Click to enlarge.

Renault’s Energy F1-2014 hybrid Power Unit (earlier post), designed and developed for the FIA Formula One World Championship this year, is ready for the track; the 2014 season kicks off in Australia on 16 March. New FIA regulations are driving energy efficiency levels higher this year, with two types of energy propelling the cars. The internal combustion engine will produce power through consumption of traditional carbon-based fuel, while electrical energy will be harvested from both exhaust and braking by two discrete motor generator units. Teams and drivers will balance the use of the two types of energy throughout the race.

This year, the power unit is divided into six separate elements: Engine (ICE); Motor generator unit-kinetic (MGU-K); Motor generator unit-heat (MGU-H); Energy store (ES); Turbocharger (TC); and Control electronics (CE). The combination of the 1.6-liter turbocharged direct injection V6 engine (maximum speed of 15,000 rpm) with the two motor generator units and battery energy store delivers combined maximum power output of 760 bhp (567 kW), on a par with the previous V8 generation.

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DOE to issue FY14 Vehicle Technologies program-wide funding opportunity announcement

December 20, 2013

The Department Of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Vehicle Technology Office (VTO), a program-wide Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000991) for fiscal year 2014 on or about January 2014. The advance notice (DE-FOA-0001053) is to alert interested parties of the coming FOA.

The areas of interest outlined in the notice of intent (NOI) fall into two broad categories: technologies to advance plug-in electric vehicles; and technologies to improve fuel efficiency, including dual-fuel, fuel properties (e.g., high octane fuels), and advanced powertrain work.

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