PARIS – A three-year research project aims to work on the design of next generation electric vehicle motors that eliminate the use of expensive magnetic materials.
The project, dubbed “Rapid Design and Development of a Switched Reluctance Traction Motor”, is led by Cobham Technical Services and gathers partners Jaguar Land-Rover and engineering consultancy Ricardo UK. The project total value amounts to £1.5 million ($2.3 million), half-funded by the Technology Strategy Board/BIS, and the rest by the project partners.
As part of the research program, Cobham said it aims to develop multi-physics software and study other partners’ methodology to design, simulate and analyze the performance of high efficiency, lightweight electric traction motors that avoid the use of expensive magnetic materials. Jaguar Land-Rover and Ricardo said they will use the software tools to design and manufacture a prototype switched reluctance motor that addresses the requirements of luxury hybrid vehicles.
“Design software for switched reluctance motors is at about the same level as diesel engine design software when it was first introduced. Cobham will develop its existing SRM capabilities to provide the consortium with enhanced tools based on the widely used Opera suite for design, finite element simulation and analysis,” declared Kevin Ward, director of Cobham Technical Services - Vector Fields Software, in a statement.
Ward continued: “We will investigate advanced integration with our other multi-physics software, to obtain more accurate evaluation of model related performance parameters such as vibration. Design throughput will also be enhanced via more extensive parallelization of code and developing an environment which captures the workflow of the design process."
Project partners outlined their intention to find an alternative to eliminate the use of rare-earth metals, which are in increasingly short supply and have risen ten-fold in cost in recent years. They expect that, at the end of this three-year program, improved design tools and processes will be in place to support rapid design, accelerating the uptake of the technology into production.
Opera is a software package for the modelling of static and time varying electromagnetic fields, and related fields such as temperature. Partners said Opera's electromagnetic simulation capabilities for switched reluctance motors are being extended to further accelerate the design, analysis and optimization of high torque density models.
The space and suport for magnets determine the overal size of the motor. so to not use rare earth magnets or less of them or less expensive types the magnets must get bigger along with the suport structure. Some clever means can minimize this but cannot eliminate it. In most cases the motor size can get bigger. 150 HP motor is the size of a 1 gallon paint can. Compare that to a ICE volume. So 20 to 50 % bigger motors are not a real problem. The volume problem is at the battery side of things.
Mining and refining rare earth metals is messy business. Most ore deposits contain a significant amount of radioactive thorium, which needs to be buried where it won't escape into soil and water. Doing without neodymium where it isn't needed seems like a good idea to me.
Question is on supply and demand. China slows down its export of rare-earth material. Why are other countries not ramping up their supply? Do really rare-earth materials only exist in Chinese soil? Nonetheless, as the supply reduces, manufacturer will look into other means. It will induce more research, hoping to reduce dependency on a couple materials. It is good to the Earth and to human.
Sometimes, a low cost will create an illusion that over consumption doesn't do harm. In reality, we have learned from the experience of fossil fuel.
So, instead of light weight, high power magnets, you replace it with REALLY heavy chunks of iron where regen gets tricky.
Come on Junko - China does not have a lock on rare earths...where did you get that idea? They did what the Japanese did with LCDs...price it low, drive out competitors,command your price. Rare earth mines are now ramping up again now that prices have come up to where it's worth extracting.
If I understand correctly, the software would help in optimizing the design of a Switched Reluctance Motor (SRM) for the hybrid/electric vehicles. SRM uses a steel rotor (?) and thus, this could be an alternative solution for avoiding usage of rare earth material in electric vehicles.