Research targets next-generation electric motors for luxury automobiles

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Jaguar Land Rover, Cobham Technical Services and Ricardo will carry out research into the design of economic electric motors that avoid expensive magnet materials.

Next-generation electric motors for low carbon emission vehicles are the target of a new collaborative research program to be led by Cobham Technical Services.

The project, ‘Rapid Design and Development of a Switched Reluctance Traction Motor’, will also involve partners Jaguar Land-Rover and engineering consultancy Ricardo UK, and is co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board.

Aside from the need to further reduce CO2 emissions from hybrid vehicles by moving to more efficient and lower weight electric motors, there is an urgent requirement to eliminate the use of rare earth elements, which are in increasingly short supply and have risen ten-fold in cost in recent years.

Virtually all electric traction motors currently used in such applications employ permanent magnets made from materials such as neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-cobalt. Since switched reluctance motors do not use permanent magnets, they are likely to provide the ideal replacement technology.

However, one of the main challenges of the project will be to produce a torque-dense motor that is also quiet enough for use in luxury vehicles.