Smaller, lighter, more efficient electric motor prototype disclosed

April 09, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
German researchers in the “MotorBrain” project have described the first prototype of an electric motor that may shape the future of electromobility, by being small, light and efficient.

The electric motor was created and constructed by the four German partners in the European research project “MotorBrain”: Infineon Technologies, Siemens, the Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology at the Technische Universität (Technical University) Dresden and ZF Friedrichshafen.

The MotorBrain prototype is a highly integrated electric motor that unifies the most important components of the powertrain for an electric vehicle. The researchers have succeeded in designing a highly compact electric motor of only three-quarters the size of models from 2011, the year when MotorBrain began. The electric motor prototype now being presented could easily fit in a conventional-sized laptop or notebook backpack.

By the integration of motor, gear drive and inverter the MotorBrain partners were able to cut down the weight of the powertrain by approximately 15%, from 90 kg to less than 77 kg.

A medium-sized vehicle (EV) with MotorBrain electric motor and performance of 60 kW (equal to about 80 HP) would be able to drive around 30 to 40 km farther than today’s electric vehicles with their average range of approximately 150 km per battery charge.

The partners succeeded in building the MotorBrain prototype without using rare earth metals, which are currently a fundamental cost driver in hybrid and electric vehicles. Today rare earth metals are an important component in the permanent magnet of any electric motor, generating a particularly strong, constant magnetic field. The stronger the magnetic field, the higher the performance capabilities of the motor. Obtaining rare earth metals is extremely complicated and environmentally harmful, and rare earth metal prices are high and fluctuate widely. The MotorBrain electric motor therefore uses readily available and less expensive ferrite magnets. The lower performance level of ferrite magnets compared to those with rare earth metals is compensated for by the specially developed high-RPM (revolutions per minute) rotor of the MotorBrain electric motor.

The MotorBrain project

Led by Infineon, 30 partners from nine European countries are conducting research