E-drive innovation: the next step for electric commercial vehicle development

Performance and efficiency requirements are driving the development of heavy-duty e-motors and inverters. By Christopher Dyer

For electric vehicles to become economically viable for fleets, heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers are demanding more power-dense e-motors with cheaper yet more efficient inverters. Industry growth so far has been stimulated in part by legislative restrictions and sustainability goals, limiting the viability of high-polluting internal combustion engine (ICE) models. Interest in new sustainable materials has also stimulated innovation not only in e-motor construction and design but also how e-drive systems could be integrated into freight vehicle architectures.

Special report: Electric motors and inverters

MAN, for instance, has seen €2.6bn (US$2.83bn) from its parent company Traton Group in e-motor development through a new diesel hybrid system, using alloys for some e-motor components to reduce weight and increase fuel efficiency. Daimler Truck has also collaborated with Volvo Trucks to produce newer more efficient motors and inverters for both brands’ range of electric and hydrogen long-range trucks. The result is Daimler’s eCarrier powertrain concept, incorporating two e-motors and one transmission in the axle. However, Daimler says that “project development for medium- and large-scale segments remains hindered by increasingly limited parts supplies and material costs."

Special report: Commercial vehicle safety
Daimler Trucks has collaborated with Volvo Trucks to produce newer more efficient motors and inverters

Despite this, the industry is still progressive in its prospects for e-motors and electric powertrains. Sam Akehurst, Professor and Deputy Academic Director at the Institute of Advanced Automotive Propulsions Systems at the University of Bath, UK, suggests that “a growing influx of e-motor companies and technical material innovation,” is contributing to this. “As more manufacturers and suppliers look to capitalise on the commercial vehicle segment, innovation to improve the reliability and power improvements to e-motors alongside new low conductive inverter designs could enhance the efficiency of e-powertrains and ultimately, the speed of investment in the e-motor industry.”

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