Reinventing the wheel

US electric car maker ZAP has signed an exclusive agreement for an advanced wheel motor technology from PML FlightLink of Hampshire, UK.

ZAP secured the PML wheel motor technology to play a key role in the development of next generation electric vehicles being developed with Lotus Engineering.

Electric vehicle concepts like the ZAP-X crossover SUV have targeted unprecedented performance goals, including a top speed of 155 mph, 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 4.8 seconds, and a peak 644 horsepower. Steve Schneider, CEO for ZAP, says PML’s wheel motor achieves the power to weight ratio to meet the performance goals of the ZAP-X.

Schneider pointed out why wheel motors allow automotive designers to achieve greater efficiencies in the overall design, distributing the weight and displacement of the drive train to the four corners of the vehicle. PML’s wheel motors don’t require intricate braking systems, instead relying on advances in regenerative braking that enhance efficiency and performance.

ZAP has undertaken a feasibility study with Lotus Engineering to explore the development of next generation electric vehicles that incorporate the latest advances in technology. The two companies met last week at ZAP’s headquarters in Santa Rosa for discussions with potential suppliers and distributors. In exchange for exclusive rights, ZAP has agreed to an initial order of approximately $10 million in PML wheel motors, subject to terms and conditions agreed on by both parties.

‘We’ve sort of reinvented the wheel,’ said Chris Newman of PML FlightLink to Car and Driver Magazine. The small British electrical-engineering company led by Martin Boughtwood, PML’s director, has produced a remarkable electric Mini to prove the technology.

The ZAP-X crossover electric car concept by Lotus Engineering and ZAP will be equipped with an exclusive new drive system from PML of the UK.  The compact SUV will be driven by an electric motor built into each wheel.

PML FlightLink is a privately held UK corporation with more than 30 years experience in advanced wheel motor and control system development. According to PML, its compact, energy efficient, electric wheel motors produce unrivalled levels of torque with internal heavy-duty tapered roller bearings that can withstand heavy radial loads for robust use, important for the all-wheel drive capability of the ZAP-X.

PML’s Hi-Pa Drive has an integrated motor and drive electronics in one unit producing a high power density – up to 20 times more than conventional systems. Hi-Pa Drive provides high torque in a lightweight flat motor package, ideally suited to vehicle in wheel drives, where its impact on suspension dynamics is minimal. Other features include total weather proofing, total energy transfer, and several levels of redundancy so any single failure will never prevent the vehicle from operating safely.