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Traction Motors – Yes – Gaining Traction
Franco Gonzalez
APR 04, 2016 19:02 PM
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Traction Motors – Yes – Gaining Traction

by Franco Gonzalez

There are about 200 companies making traction motors for electric vehicles.  Concurrently, there are also about 200 companies that make the lithium-ion batteries that increasingly power them. However, whereas three types of lithium-ion battery chemistry and construction are taking almost all of the business, with traction motors the situation is more complex because the diversity of needs calls for many very different types of motor - from brushless outrunner motors for quadcopters to claw pole torque assist reversing alternators (TARA) for the new 48V mild hybrids that will be in volume production from 2017.

Those mild hybrids will now qualify as electric vehicles because they will have pure electric silent take-off like regular “strong” hybrids. While it is true that an increasing number of traction motors for regular electric vehicles also work in reverse to generate electricity from braking and even when coasting, they are very different from TARAs which typically appear as belt-drive starter generators (BSG) and integrated starter generators (ISG) in 48V mild hybrids appearing in volume from 2017.

Mainstream electric vehicle reversing traction motors generate very infrequently whereas the opposite is true for a TARA. Regular hybrids and pure electric vehicles used hundreds of volts in most cases though there are a few that work at 48V including industrial and leisure runabouts and one supercar announced in 2016.  The new IDTechEx Research report, “Mild Hybrid 48V Vehicles 2016-2031”, for instance, looks at the synergies, opportunities and market potential in 48V systems for mild hybrids and, much less important, pure electric vehicles.

Source: IDTechEx photograph

It is important to look at the whole picture to see what is coming in traction motors for EVs. For instance, those chasing efficiency and power to weight ratio may watch energy independent electric vehicles (EIV) because they have the most extreme requirements of all in the lightweighting and efficiency arena. Newcastle University in the UK is designing such motors for the Boeing drones that will stay up for five years at a time.

And Nuon Solar Team, the winner of the Bridgestone trans-Australia 3000 kilometer solar race, claims a remarkable 96% efficiency for the motors they design and use. Few regular electric cars even reach 90%. Another solar team in the Netherlands has made a four seat EIV that has so many solar panels it not only performs its tasks but donates energy to the grid as well and claims 97% efficiency for its electric motor.

In a similar vein, Zero Motorcycles, a leader in electric motorcycles, designed its own motor. It increased efficiency and generated the heat on the outside with the result that a huge gain was made by abandoning liquid cooling.

Learn more about traction motors at the IDTechEx Show! in Berlin, April 27-28.

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