Dallas, Texas (PRWEB) November 11, 2012
Today, the motors that propel electric vehicles on land, through water and in the air are mainly brushless because brushed commutator motors are on the way out. Most of the number and the value of those brushless traction motors lies in permanent magnet synchronous ones, notably Brushless DC "BLDC", a form with trapezoidal waveform, and Permanent Magnet AC "PMAC", a type with a sinusoidal waveform. No matter: they both have excellent performance including simple provision of reverse and regenerative braking. However, that dominance is about to change. The main reason in electric vehicle traction motor industry is not those well publicised but elusive in-wheel motors coming in at two to six per vehicle but simply the move to much larger vehicles and therefore motors.
In-wheel motors not as portrayed
We fear that only 2.5% of electric vehicles by land, water and air will have multiple traction motors in 2022 and that may mean only 5.6% of traction motors sold will be for multi-motor vehicles - mainly in-wheel motors for land vehicles. That is big enough for two or three suppliers to make enduringly profitable, substantial businesses out of supplying them but it is not a primary route to leadership in the overall traction motor business. Of course, in-wheel motors for single motor vehicles, notably two wheelers will be separate from that and even more successful than they are today, maybe over 100 million of these being sold - largely on price - in 2022.
While there are a few asynchronous in-wheel motors, nearly all of the sales of in-wheel motors concern the usually smaller synchronous versions, so let us now look more closely at the glamorous world of in-wheel motors, already a huge success in e-bikes, selling by the tens of millions. Here a warning comes for Mitsubishi deciding not to use its in-wheel motors in its best-selling MiEV pure electric car because of cost. Currently you cannot have several motors for the price of one when you want to adopt in-wheel power. While motor manufacturers hope that a price premium will be on offer where they eliminate transmission and differential, there are problems of ride to finance and concerns at Fiat, for example, about wheels jamming.
Performance matters more
The winners in future traction motor markets will win on performance more than price, this including very different criteria in different vehicles with many problems still to solve. For example, Boeing has a contract to develop an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle UAV that can stay aloft for five years. It has subcontracted Newcastle University in the UK to create a traction motor with several times improvement in power- to-weight ratio in order to make this possible. NASA's dream of small aircraft taking off purely under the power from in-wheel motors may call for new motor designs as will the thunderbolt of power from regenerative braking of landing airliners that then become electric vehicles while on the ground. Fault tolerant motors are needed in other applications and while Chorus Motors has developed an asynchronous one, Protean Electric has announced an equally impressive synchronous one. Reducing or eliminating the need for water cooling is a welcome advance as yet rarely on offer with large motors. Working at the more efficient high voltages of 300-700V means less copper, thinner, more manageable wiring and less power wastage. Not all motors meet these requirements.
Wake up time
It is wakeup time for the electric vehicle traction motor industry. Our survey of 123 manufacturers shows far too few making asynchronous or switched reluctance synchronous motors and larger, high power, motors with strong traction or even exceptionally light weight powerful motors. There are far too many making traction motors with brushes. In short, this is an industry structured for the past that is going to have a very nasty surprise when the future comes. Most of it is not even talking to the vehicle manufacturers that will spend most to buy traction motors in the years to come. Many think easy money comes from pursuing the obvious, notably selling to the fearsomely competitive electric car market where 90% of your customers are headed for insolvency. In China alone, there are over 100 manufacturers of electric cars and none are successful.
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