Researchers will develop ‘e-axle’ for electric cars in new facility

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RESEARCHERS at the Institute of Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS) will work alongside British luxury carmaker Bentley Motors on a three-year research study that promises to transform electric vehicle powertrains.

IAAPS experts will work with a nine-strong consortium to lead the development of fully integrated, recyclable e-axle that will support electric vehicle architectures.

The work will assist in realising Bentley’s ambition to lead sustainable luxury mobility and introduce the first fully electric Bentley by 2026.

Stefan Fischer, Director of Powertrain Engineering at Bentley Motors, commented on the project: “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 electrify our entire model range 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.”

The study, titled OCTOPUS (Optimised Components, Test and simulatiOn, toolkits for Powertrains which integrate Ultra high speed motor Solutions) follows an initial 18-month investigation that delivered a technological breakthrough in electric drive systems for high-performance vehicles.

The resulting electric drive system delivered a package both cost effective and recyclable at its end of life, which exceeded pre-existing permanent magnet motor performance while simultaneously removing the need for both rare-earth magnets and copper windings.

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.

IAAPS Deputy Academic Director, Professor Sam Akehurst, commented: “This is a highly exciting and innovative project to engage with.

“It is great to be working with Bentley, AEM and the other partners to deliver a product requiring both high performance and high refinement.

“This will be one of the first projects to be undertaken in our new state of art IAAPS research building, utilising our state of the art powertrain research facilities.”

OCTOPUS is an OLEV and Innovate UK-funded project and brings together the following partners with distinct roles and responsibilities:

  • Bentley Motors – Specification setting, vehicle integration plan and system test
  • IAAPS – Integrated system analysis and proof of concept validation testing
  • Advanced Electric Machines Ltd – Motor manufacturing and systems assembly
  • Advanced Electric Machines Research Ltd – Motor and transmission design
  • The Thinking Pod Innovations Ltd & Nottingham University – power electronics optimisation and alternative wide band gap system design
  • HiEta Technologies Ltd – AM components for thermal management and rotor systems
  • FD Sims Ltd – Next generation wire technology development
  • Talga Technologies Ltd – 2D materials development for next generation winding technologies
  • Diamond Light Source & Hartree Centre (Science and Technologies Facilities Council) – Advanced system testing and co-simulation toolkit development

Francesca Iudicello, Programme Manager for low & zero emission vehicles at Innovate UK, added: “The IDP (Integrated Delivery Platform) Programme is playing a significant part in the UK’s push to net zero carbon by providing support for the development of ground-breaking zero emission technologies.

“The APEX and OCTOPUS projects are an outstanding example of how the partnership between a UK SME and a global OEM can continue through the different development stage of motor drives, which puts UK innovation at the forefront of the high performance PEMDs market worldwide.”

IAAPS’ part of the OCTOPUS project will be performed at the Institute’s research facility, currently in construction at the Bristol and Bath Science Park, and due to open in 2021.

The facility will offer research support to the global automotive industry to deliver future generations of advanced propulsion systems and ultra-low emission vehicles.

The new space will allow ‘detailed systems-level research to be conducted including whole-vehicle analysis under real-world driving conditions, recognising the ever-changing nature of mobility and travel in the UK, particularly with a transition to low carbon transportation as part of the UK’s 2050 net zero target.’

IAAPS has received funding from both Research England’s UK Research Partnership Investment Fund and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership through the Local Growth Fund, administered by the West of England Combined Authority.