Bentley OCTOPUS project aims for electric powertrain breakthrough

Bentley Motors has announced a three-year research project aimed at exploring a fully integrated, free from rare-earth magnet e-axle for next generation electric vehicles.

electric drive
Image: Bentley

The so-called OCTOPUS study (Optimised Components, Test and simulatiOn, toolkits for Powertrains which integrate Ultra high-speed motor Solutions) follows an initial 18-month investigation which demonstrated how the proposed electric drive system improved on the performance of competing permanent magnet motors whilst removing the need for rare-earth magnets and copper windings.

One of the key partners in the project is UK electric motor specialist Advanced Electric Machines, which has been working on magnet-free electric motor technology for a number of years. The organisation was the recipient of the Grand Prix prize at The Engineers 2019 Collaborate To Innovate Awards.

Advanced Electric Machines Group CEO, Dr. James Widmer, said: “Having already worked closely with Bentley to successfully deliver a proof-of-concept, we look forward to this new project to push the performance, packaging and sustainability of electric vehicle drives to a new level, removing the need for rare-earths and copper and achieving the highest levels of system integration.”

OCTOPUS will take this leading-edge motor, power electronics and packaging transmission design, adding next generation materials, manufacturing processes, simulation and test cycles to deliver a full e-axle powertrain with unique levels of integration and revolutionary performance characteristics suitable for real world application by 2026.

Commenting on the project, Stefan Fischer, Director of Powertrain Engineering at Bentley Motors, said: “We have made no secret of our ambition to lead the way in the delivery of sustainable luxury mobility, Beyond100. We have a clear roadmap to offer a hybrid option for every model by 2023, starting with the Bentayga Hybrid, and our next goal moves towards a fully electric Bentley by 2026.

“However today, there remains challenges and package constraints on the viability and flexibility of electric vehicle powertrains that are able to fully support EV architectures. With the industry, technologies and cars changing faster than ever before, research projects such as OCTOPUS are crucial to deliver innovative technologies and overcome challenges for the next generation of mobility solutions.”

Other partners in the electric drive project include the universities of Bath and Nottingham, AM specialist HiETA Technologies Ltd and the Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron light source which is providing access to X-ray facilities for measurements.