UK project to explore composite drive units for EVs

A newly launched UK project is exploring how composites could be used to improve the efficiency of the integrated electric drive units (EDU) of electric vehicles

composite EDU
The project will investigate the use of composite materials as a means to enable increased power density and reduced unit size.

Led by UK Leamington-spa based engineering consultancy Drive System Design (DSD) the 12-month project, which is part-funded by Innovate UK and also involves the National Composites Centre (NCC) will investigate the use of composites to enable increased power density and reduced unit size.

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“Vehicle range at reasonable cost is still one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of EVs, so technology that can increase this through efficiency gains – without adding significantly to unit cost – is crucial,” said DSD’s Head of Mechanical Engineering Markus Hose. “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.”

One of the ways the project will achieve this, said Hose, is by dealing more effectively with the trade-off between NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and efficiency. These have historically been managed independently with iterative work typically required to overcome the NVH challenges created by highly efficient EDU designs.

The project addresses this in two parallel work streams. The first 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. With NVH and efficiency often being in competition with each other, this increased NVH tolerance would provide design engineers with greater freedom to increase efficiency.

The second work stream will utilises 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, says: “The NCC is looking forward to working with DSD to develop the tools and processes that enable efficient integrated drive units through targeted application of composite materials.”