By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
The history of the automobile tells us that designers, engineers and customers always want more and less from their vehicles. More performance and more efficiency at less cost and less complexity. The growing world of electric vehicles is no different.
A recent press release from GE Global Research shows that the quest continues. GE says that its R&D staff have prototyped and tested an improved traction motor that could improve range and reduce power consumption on EVs and hybrids of the future, as well as having implications for other motors including industrial, high-speed compressor and power generating applications..
To start with, researchers developed “high-resistivity” or 3X permanent magnets for the inside of the motor. They say this significantly lessens magnet losses and contributes to reduced costs as well.
According to the test data, the new “Interior Permanent Magnet” traction motor provides nearly twice the power density of similar units from competitors, and thus a noticeable increase in vehicle acceleration. Perhaps the most noteworthy test spec is that the motor can meet its torque target at voltages at or just above 200 V—that’s about a third of the more common 600-650 volt bus systems in use today. Additionally, GE says the motor has a wide operating range and can provide speeds of 2,800 – 14,000 rpm at 30 kW.
There was a significant amount of thermal management built in to the project as well. Although the new motor operates with internal temperatures near 220 °F, the company says it can be cooled with engine coolant and does not require the separate and dedicated cooling system used on some hybrids and EVs.
So—more punch, less complexity and lower cost. When do we see it? No time soon says the company. GE Global Research will undertake another four year project to refine the motor even more and develop magnets that do not require rare earth minerals.
Is this an industry breakthrough? We don’t know, and probably won’t for a while. You can be assured that many other companies are working to improve traction motor technology as well. But as the EV and hybrid market grows, at whatever speed, expect to see steps being taken to do more, for less.
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