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A previous Drive System Design project

Engineers team up to make EVs more efficient with composites

Image credit: Drive System Design

A collaborative British research project aims to make electric vehicles more efficient through the use of composite materials in the drive system.

Engineering consultancy Drive System Design (DSD) is the lead partner in the 12-month project, with the National Composites Centre (NCC) as partner. They will investigate the use of composites in the integrated electric drive unit (EDU) to enable increased power density and reduced unit size, offering vehicle manufacturers further packaging and efficiency benefits.

“Vehicle range at reasonable cost is still one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of EVs,” said Markus Hose, DSD head of mechanical engineering. “Technology that can increase this through efficiency gains – without adding significantly to unit cost – is crucial.”

“Vehicle manufacturers are facing increasing packaging challenges as they seek to incorporate higher-performance EDUs into latest designs, so power-density improvements will offer a key competitive advantage.”

A key element of the project will be to address noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) alongside the work on efficiency. Historically, these attributes have been managed independently, with the potential for conflict that then has to be resolved by iterative work, Hose explained. “This project considers NVH from the outset and is central to any decision making, resulting in an EDU optimised for real-world operation,” he said.

One of the two parallel workstreams will look to increase the EDU efficiency through targeted use of composite material. For example, if the NVH-dampening properties of composites can be harnessed, the EDU will be more tolerant to NVH inputs for the motor and transmission. This increased NVH tolerance would give design engineers greater freedom to increase efficiency.

The second workstream will use composite sleeves to enclose a rotor in a way that is scalable for high-volume manufacture, enabling higher power density eMotors, which in turn helps to reduce unit mass and size.

Aliya Valiyff, technology programme manager for automotive at the NCC, said the NCC will work with DSD to develop tools and processes that enable efficient integrated drive units through targeted application of composite materials. The UK and other countries are moving towards all-electric future transport systems, she pointed out, so “there is a major market opportunity for both the domestic market and for exports.

The project is part-funded by Innovate UK. “The NCC, in partnership with DSD and IUK, will be contributing to enhancing UK skills in power electronics, machines and drives by cementing existing skills and developing new technology,” Valiyff added.

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