UK consortium to develop advanced electric powertrain
GKN Automotive, Drive System Design, and the University of Nottingham are collaborating on an £8 million project they say is aimed at designing and developing "a world-leading electric vehicle powertrain for the global market."
ACeDrive (Advanced Cooling and Control of High Speed e-Drive) is backed by match-funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). Already progressing through concept selection, the project aims to achieve the level of technology and performance outlined in the Automotive Council’s roadmap for 2040 and be production ready by 2023.
ACeDrive is aiming to be the world’s lightest and most efficient electric vehicle powertrain suitable for the volume market. To achieve this, it says it is adopting concepts in cooling and system integrationthat will lead to a significant reduction in the number and size of components. The core targets for the program are a 25% reduction in both packaging size and cost, a 20% drop in weight, and a 10% increase in efficiency compared to current equivalents.
The ACeDrive project expects to deliver a complete system that combines a downsized electric motor, optimized transmission, and high-frequency inverter within a single unit, enabling shared cooling and a compact housing. This will reportedly reduce the packaging size and cost as well as incorporate fewer interfaces to reduce internal friction, improve transmission alignment, and a boost efficiency and NVH management.
GKN Automotive is responsible for the design of the ACeDrive system, including the overall packaging and the development of the motor, inverter, and transmission. Following detailed simulation and analysis, final design will commence in Q3 2019. Prototyping, rig, and vehicle testing will follow in 2020, before a vehicle demonstrator equipped with the prototype system is unveiled for public demonstration in Q1 2021.
The project will be based at the GKN Automotive Innovation Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, with support from consortium partner Drive System Design in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, as well as the University of Nottingham.
Drive System Design’s simulation-led approach will optimize ACeDrive as a whole unit, thereby identifying key tradeoffs earlier in the design process. Its enhanced test capabilities will reportedly help meet the growing requirements of the automotive industry for higher speed electric motor testing—up to and beyond 20,000 rpm, and with voltages over 800 V.
The University of Nottingham will lead the development of the electric motor, power electronics modules, and advanced integrated cooling. Central to the ACeDrive concept will be the use of advanced SiC transistors, enabling higher frequency control and unlocking efficiency improvements, and providing a high-speed, next-generation design that is smaller than current motors of equivalent power and is affordable for OEM customers.
Gordon Day, General Manager at GKN Automotive Innovation Centre, said, “In partnership with Drive System Design and the University of Nottingham, we are developing a truly advanced eDrive system, more compact and cost-effective than other technologies on the horizon. Our ambition is to help the UK take the lead in electric powertrain design and manufacturing capability.”
Simon Shepherd, head of Electrified Powertrain at Drive System Design, noted, “Our whole system approach to engineering will help to combine next-generation electronic components, groundbreaking integration, and a high-speed motor, to deliver significantly greater power density and efficiency with lower cost to OEMs.”
The APC’s 2018 Roadmap Report, "Towards 2040: A Guide to Automotive Propulsion Technologies," highlights the key growth opportunities for the UK supply chain in low-carbon propulsion systems. The ACeDrive project will examine the UK supply chain and its capability to support large-scale manufacture of power electronics, machines, and drives (PEMD).