GKN Automotive joins sustainable eMotor R&D project

GKN Automotive has joined a €4m European R&D project aiming to develop lower cost, more efficient and power dense permanent magnet eMotors for electric vehicles.

The project will involve a long-term circular strategy for rare earth critical raw materials
The project will involve a long-term circular strategy for rare earth critical raw materials - Image via stock.adobe.com

Named ‘HEFT’ and led by Mondragon University, Spain, the project is funded by the European Commission and includes eight partners from Belgium, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and the UK. GKN Automotive is joining as a key industrial partner, assuming responsibility for manufacturing and assembly, and ensuring the final eMotor design meets industry needs.

The novel concept of a low cost, high power density and highly efficient recyclable motor for next-generation mass produced electric vehicles includes a set of innovations to the eMotor configuration and materials that will be validated on two variants of the eMotor.

This includes innovations in rotor and stator direct cooling, advanced insulation for high voltage, advanced GBD magnets, epoxy for magnet fixation and composite for motor housing and insulation resin.

According to GKN, these innovations will allow magnets in the eMotor to be smaller in size, contain less rare earth material, and be eligible for reuse and recycling.

Compared to two main reference eMotors already on the market, the automotive tech company said that the final eMotor will offer up to a 20 per cent reduction in power losses, a 28 per cent reduction in production costs and up to a 66 per cent reduction in material use.

A long-term circular strategy for rare earth critical raw materials (CRM) will be implemented, targeting a reduction in the use of two key rare earth materials (neodymium and dysprosium) of up to 80 per cent, and recycling more than 80 per cent of any rare earth material used. This aims to conserve resources and create increased resilience in the European supply chain.

Aitor Tovar, senior global manager eMotor development at GKN Automotive, said that developing lower cost, sustainable and more efficient eMotors will be key to the future of electric mobility.

“Minimising the environmental impact of manufacturing, particularly through a reduction in the use of rare earth critical raw materials, is an essential consideration in the development of future products, so the implementation of a circular economy strategy is another key motivation in our participation in this project,” Tovar commented.

HEFT plans to organise OEM workshops to increase adoption of its solutions. It will also work with policymakers to promote regulations to help maintain the leadership of EU companies while increasing their competitiveness and job opportunities linked to the new circular business models.

The project will also be aligned with the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) action plan towards a circular economy market of rare earth permanent magnets. HEFT will be supported by an advisory board, including companies, institutions and alliances.