Is The World Electric? MHH International Looks At EV Technology
At the global CES (Consumer Technology Association) conference, live as you read this, we’re expecting some technological advances from car makers. Hyundai are introducing a fuel cell vehicle with autonomous features for example and Kia are featuring an all new, all-electric concept that will demonstrate the future of the brand. There is however, one new development, years in the planning, that is likely to change the electric car market.
That’s right: Electric hub motors within the wheels. It’s the coming thing and it seems, rightly, inevitable that this is the way forward for pure electric drive. It is true that the concept is not new, but that it is now proven to work is the point.
A British-based company has spent the last eight years designing and developing a unique and very versatile in-wheel electric drive system for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric light-duty vehicles. The system can, they say, improve vehicle fuel economy, add torque, increase power and enable improved vehicle handling to both new and, crucially, existing vehicles which indicates no need to necessarily develop brand new models to fit the technology.
Here’s The Science Bit
For science lovers, this fully-integrated, direct-drive solution combines in-wheel motors with an integrated inverter, control electronics and software – no separate large, heavy and costly inverter is required. Each motor packages easily in the unused space behind a conventional 18” to 24” wheel that can, cleverly, use the original equipment wheel bearing. The system, we learn, reduces part count, complexity and cost. There is no need to integrate traditional drivetrain components such as external gearing, transmissions, driveshafts, axles and differentials.
No gears needed obviously and the developer says that each motor can produce 81kW, equivalent to 109bhp, and thus a basic two-wheel-drive electric car could conceivably produce peak power of 214bhp and a huge woosh of torque. Put that in your city car!
Does It Really Work?
Yes, is the short answer. It has been tested successfully in a Volkswagen Golf although not without issues. With the extra weight in the wheels the vehicle’s drive dynamics change. To counter this the suspension was tuned by an independent vehicle dynamics expert. This worked and it was shown that the additional unsprung weight was handled successfully. The test car was made to handle as well as a standard model.
It is not all plain sailing but this does seem like a worthwhile new development in the advance of the electric car. The potential for simplified drive trains and real enthusiast level performance with both two and four-wheel drive vehicles is clear.
Right now, the technology is more expensive than existing EV systems but once rolling as it were, further development and economies of scale will solve that problem. With the much-vaunted advances from Tesla (for example) in battery and charging technology it may well mean that the electric car will make sense for all drivers and not just urban dwellers.