The emphasis on reducing tailpipe emissions and uncertainty in oil supply have forced vehicle manufacturers to look into vehicle electrification technologies such as hybrid and electric vehicles, which reduce or eliminate the use of internal combustion engines in cars. This development helps to increase electric components in the vehicle and is expected to boost the market for traction motors.
According to recent Frost & Sullivan research on traction electric motors for hybrid and electric vehicles, the markets for motors in Europe and North America together are expected to scale up to 4.8 million units by 2017. This opens a door for opportunities in the form of design, development and supply of such motors for EV powertrain suppliers.
OEMs looking to develop electric motors in-house are likely to hold the design and intelligence to themselves, but outsource modules and components
Vehicle manufacturers in the past have contracted custom-made end-to-end EV powertrain specialist suppliers. Daimler‘s Smart ED, for example, gets the whole powertrain from Zytek Engineering; BMW contracted AC Propulsion for Mini E. The key supplier selection criteria were a strong focus on EV motor technologies, vertical integration capability and that the company be technology-driven rather than product-driven. The supply was limited only to fleet testing and the vehicle manufacturer’s strategy was to outsource the complete EV powertrain. Such companies demonstrating specialised EV powertrain capabilities in the future could be acquired by Tier 1 suppliers or OEMs (such as GKN acquiring a stake in EVO electric) as EVs head towards mass production. The criteria would change over medium/long term, when vehicle manufacturers start mass producing EVs and look to achieve volumes of scale. The suppliers would be required to demonstrate reliability, strong research and development, an uninterrupted supply chain, state of art manufacturing procedures/facilities, tight quality control and intra-organisational support.
OEMs looking to develop electric motors in-house are likely to hold the design and intelligence to themselves, but outsource modules and components. In many cases, vehicle manufacturers are looking for multiple suppliers for various research and commercial projects, but are likely to choose a single supplier in the long term.
The biggest move came from Toyota, the pioneer of PMM used in the Prius, when it recently pledged to reduce its reliance on rare earth metal magnets and started working on light weight induction motor technology that could potentially replace the former in unfavourable conditions
Permanent Magnet Motors (PMM) are the most popular motors and the first choice of developers. They offer superior starting torque and power densities, making it the optimal technology for a hybrid EV. However the cost and availability of rare earth metals such as neodymium, which are extensively used as magnets, have forced the OEMs to look at alternatives.
The biggest move came from Toyota, the pioneer of PMM used in the Prius, when it recently pledged to reduce its reliance on rare earth metal magnets and started working on light weight induction motor technology that could potentially replace the former in unfavourable conditions. European vehicle manufacturers and motor suppliers are working on hybrid motor technology which either reduces or eliminates the usage of such magnets.
As OEMs look at more than one electric motor technology, suppliers are expected to have a wide product portfolio for a successful acquisition of contracts.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Anjan Hemanth Kumar is Team Leader Electric Vehicles at Frost & Sullivan.
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