Drive to find an alternative to rare earth metals

September 21, 2011

A world-leading team of UK engineers has been charged with developing a new motor for electric vehicles that will significantly reduce our future dependency on rare earth metals.

Sevcon, Cummins Generator Technologies and Newcastle University have been awarded £518,000 by the UK's Technology Strategy Board to develop a novel electric motor for hybrid electric and pure electric vehicles.

Unlike the current EV motors which rely on rare earth metals such as Neodymium and Dysprosium, the new motors will replace these rare earth metals with steel. Steel is not only cheaper and less damaging to the environment, but also much more widely available - a key factor if we are to meet the expected rise in demand for hybrid and electric vehicles.

James Widmer, of Newcastle University's Centre for Advanced Electrical Drives, explained: "The pressure on supplies of rare-earth metals coupled with rising demand for this technology means the pressure is on to find an alternative.

"In addition to this, extracting these rare minerals can be incredibly destructive to the environment. If we are to pursue electric and hybrid vehicles as a truly greener option then we need to look not only at the fuel but also the materials we are using to develop the various components.

"Newcastle University, Sevcon and Cummins are in an excellent position to deliver this world class technology. Between us we are leaders in the development of new electric motor technologies, the supply of the electronics which drive the new electric vehicles and the manufature of engines for many of the world's commercial vehicles."

Rare earth metals are a range of minerals which have become increasingly important in the delivery of new and sustainable technologies ranging from electric vehicles to solar panels.

However their success in these applications is now raising worldwide concern about the supply and environmental impact of mining these materials.

The market for electric cars and commercial vehicles is expected to grow five fold over the next decade from less than 2 million EV's sold in 2010 to an estimated 49 million by 2020. But this $180 billion-industry will be held back unless alternatives can be found for the metals currently used to drive the engines.

The research is part of the University's on-going commitment to tackle one of the great societal challenges of our age - Sustainability - and it is hoped the system being developed by the partners will be ready for volume production within four years.

About The Technology

The "High Torque Density Switched Reluctance Drive System for Low Carbon Vehicles" project will develop a highly innovative electrical machine and drive system for low carbon vehicles.

Containting no expensive and scarce rare earth magnet material it will be capable of providing tractive power and acting as a generator in a cost competitive and suitable for high volume manufacture package.

This project will go beyond the current state of the art in low carbon vehicle drivetrains by replacing electric motors which use rare earth magnets with one that does not and electronic control systems based on cutting edge power devices.

Dr. Peter Barras, Sevcon's Vice President of Engineering, said: "This is an exciting, cutting edge project in a market sector that has great potential. We are already very active in the low carbon vehicle sector and the performance capabilities of our advance technology motor controllers are ideal for this sort of application. We are delighted to be bringing our automotive drivetrain engineering expertise to this project.

Speaking about the award CGT's General Manager for Emerging Business Sitaram Ganeshan said: "We are committed to developing innovative products that enable us to deliver attractive value propositions for our customers. The rising costs of magnets can have a significant impact on the cost of electric machines and this award provides an excellent platform to develop a new generation of electric motors to meet the challenges. It further reinforces our position as a technology leader in electric machines and our committment to provide innovative solutions to the industry."

Newcastle University's Professor Barrie Mecrow, who leads the University's electric motor research, added: "We are delighted to have the opportunity to apply our research concepts in the electric vehicles sector. There is a tremendous opportunity for this consortium to make a real impact upon the electric vehicles of the future, combining low cost with highly efficient solutions. The consortium provides the ideal mix of leading motor and drive manufacturing experience with state of the art research capability."
-end-


Newcastle University

Related Electric Vehicles Articles from Brightsurf:

Drop in pandemic CO2 emissions previews world of electric vehicles
When the SF Bay Area mandated shelter-in-place March 16, it created a natural experiment for UC Berkeley's Ron Cohen, who had established an inexpensive pollution sensor network in local neighborhoods.

Plugging in: Survey examines American perceptions of -- and resistance to -- electric vehicles
The latest installment of the Climate Insights 2020 report series finds that resistance to purchasing electric vehicles derives from a variety of sources -- and those reasons differ among some demographics.

New study shows converting to electric vehicles alone won't meet climate targets
Today there are more than 7 million electric vehicles (EVs) in operation around the world, compared with only about 20,000 a decade ago.

New composite material revs up pursuit of advanced electric vehicles
Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory used new techniques to create a composite that increases the electrical current capacity of copper wires, providing a new material that can be scaled for use in ultra-efficient, power-dense electric vehicle traction motors.

Unmanned aerial vehicles help wheat breeders
Usually, breeders pick the best wheat lines by hand, but unmanned aerial vehicles that record certain measures of plant health can help breeders select wheat lines more efficiently.

Hydrogen vehicles might soon become the global norm
Roughly one billion cars and trucks zoom about the world's roadways.

Will automated vehicles cut parking revenue?
Benjamin Clark and Anne Brown of the University of Oregon used Seattle as a case study to find the association between TNC trips and on-street parking occupancy.

Influx of electric vehicles accelerates need for grid planning
A new PNNL report says the western US bulk power system can reliably support projected growth of up to 24 million electric vehicles through 2028, but challenges will arise as EV adoption grows beyond that threshold.

Battery breakthrough gives boost to electric flight and long-range electric cars
Researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, have developed a new battery material that could enable long-range electric vehicles that can drive for hundreds of miles on a single charge, and electric planes called eVTOLs for fast, environmentally friendly commutes.

Research determines financial benefit from driving electric vehicles
Motorists can save as much as $14,500 on fuel costs over 15 years by driving an electric vehicle instead of a similar one fueled by gasoline, according to a new analysis conducted by researchers at the U.S.

Read More: Electric Vehicles News and Electric Vehicles Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.