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$4m project aims to develop EV motors free of rare earths

12 August, 2011

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a $3m grant to the motor designer UQM Technologies to develop non-rare-earth magnet electric motors for use in electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. UQM will contribute $1m towards the $4m cost of the project.

As part of the project, UQM will design a high-performance permanent magnet motor using non-rare-earth magnets which, it is hoped, will cut costs while operating at a higher efficiency than other motor technologies.

UQM’s engineering team will collaborate with Ames Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop and apply new magnetic materials in the motors.

“The goal of this new technology will be motor designs that apply to a full range of vehicle electrification, from mild hybrid to heavy hybrid, to full electric vehicles,” explains UQM’s vice president of engineering, Jon Lutz. “We believe that our unique motor concepts, coupled with our extensive experience in motor design, will allow us to achieve the objectives of this programme.”

UQM’s president and CEO, Eric Ridenour adds that the grant “will help us apply our extensive experience with the design and engineering of electric motors to the exploration of non-rare-earth magnet motor technology. Our objective is to identify and evaluate magnet materials and technology that can deliver the performance our customers expect, broaden our product portfolio, potentially lower magnet cost and limit our exposure to price and supply concerns associated with rare earth magnets.”

UQM already produces electric propulsion systems for vehicle manufacturers including Saab, Audi and Rolls-Royce. The company has a new manufacturing facility with the capacity to produce 40,000 of its PowerPhase electric propulsion systems per year.

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