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US injects $2m into `digital motor` project

01 November, 2001

US injects $2m into `digital motor` project

The US Department of Commerce is giving $2m to a company developing a "digital electric motor" (DEM) which, it says, could double the range of electric vehicles and cost half as much as current EV motors. The 10X Corporation asserts that its motor overcomes two of the main obstacles to the widespread adoption of EVs - their price and limited range.

10X says that its DEM operates at high efficiency over a far wider speed and load range than conventional motors. In stop-go city traffic, in particular, standard motors often have to work outside their areas of peak efficiency.

The digital motor has a rotor containing powerful rare-earth magnets, and a stator with rows of electromagnetic coils. A computerised controller uses data from a photoelectric position sensor to change the coil firing sequence dynamically as the load and speed change. The machine is said to produce a high starting torque and can continue running if one or more of the coils fails.

So far, 10X has built two prototype digital motors. It has obtained one patent covering the technology and is applying for a second. Using the grant from the US Commerce Department`s Advanced Technology Program (ATP), the company plans to build a 150kW version within two years. The ATP says that with its support, the digital motors could start to appear in EVs as soon as 2005. Without the grant, commercialisation would not happen before late 2008.

Although EVs are the initial target market for the DEM, the ATP suggests that it could have other applications, including high-efficiency industrial drives. The technology could also be adapted to produce flexible, controllable generators capable of delivering either AC or DC.

10X does not plan to manufacture the motors itself but will licence the technology to others. During its ten-year history, the company has developed products including computer peripherals and a software program that "develops concentration, motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, dexterity and peripheral vision". 10X says that the digital motor is now its primary focus.

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