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Advanced motors start-up gets £1.45m injection

26 September, 2009

A new UK company has secured a £1.45m investment from a private high-tech investor, Seven Spires Investments, to develop and commercialise lightweight electric motors originally devised at the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science.

The spinout company, called Oxford Yasa Motors, has also won a grant from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board as part of a £1.89m consortium to develop higher-volume versions of the motor.

The motor (above), which uses a new topology with a segmented armature, is claimed to offer operating efficiencies of up to 97%. It is aimed at high-torque, low-weight applications, such as electric vehicles. 

The motor was originally devised in 2008 by Dr Malcolm McCulloch, head of Oxford’s Electronic Power Group and Dr Tim Woolmer, then a PhD student in the group, for use in a fuel-cell-powered vehicle called the Lifecar being developed by the Morgan Motor company. The group received £75,000 in funding from the Oxford University Challenge Seed fund to build a prototype motor.

The Yasa (yokeless and segmented armature) motors are based on a series of magnetically separated stator segments made from powdered iron materials that allow complex magnetic parts to be manufactured easily. They need much less iron and copper than other axial-flux motors, resulting low-weight machines. They use multiphase windings, reducing torque ripple. The segmented armature design is also said to improve cooling performance.

A 13kg Yasa motor can deliver a peak torque of 130Nm and a peak output power of around 50kW. Simulations show that the same motor could achieve peak torque levels of more than 200Nm and peak powers of more than 150kW.

Over the past eight months, the Oxford team has been collaborating with a UK engineering firm Delta Motorsports to configure the motor for a new four-seat coupe, scheduled to start track testing at the end of 2009.

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