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Expansion raises novel motor production capacity to 4,000

29 March, 2012

Yasa Motors, the developer of high power, high torque density axial-flux motors, has expanded to new 650m2 premises at Didcot’s Milton Park, with the capacity to produce 4,000 motors per year.

The company, which was spun out of Oxford University in 2009, expects to boost its workforce from 20 to 30 by the end of the year. It was set up with £1.5m of investment and last year generated sales worth £600,000.

The Yasa (yokeless and segmented armature) motors incorporate novel magnetic and cooling systems that result in a 10kg machine that is up to 60% smaller and four times lighter than the motor used in the 2010 Toyota Prius, with a 30% higher output. The design should ultimately be relatively cheap to mass-produce.

Four Yasa motors, with a combined power rating of 634kW, have recently been demonstrated powering an electric sportscar, said to be as fast as a Formula 1 vehicle.

Yasa is currently developing a 165kW motor, weighing less than 20kg, that will deliver a peak torque output of 400Nm.

“We’re looking at installing these high-performance electric motors in the new generation of electric and hybrid vehicles that will come onto the market in 2016/17, as the design cycle for a new vehicle is four to five years,” says Tim Woolmer, Yasa’s founder and chief technology officer, who invented the motor for his DPhil project at Oxford University.

Dr Woolmer came up with the design when the University won a grant to construct a motor for electric sports cars. “We started with a completely blank sheet as the University had never designed anything of this sort before, which was great as we weren’t bound by any existing technology,” he says.

“Electric cars will take some time to become popular as they are still relatively expensive to buy,” Woolmer concedes, “but by reducing the magnetic materials in the motor, we are helping to make electric cars far cheaper to produce.”

The Yasa motor has uses beyond the car industry. Woolmer is looking at ways of increasing sales to the agricultural, marine, aerospace and construction sectors, all of which need lightweight electric motors.

“Big excavators, for example, are very inefficient as they require an enormous diesel engine to move their equipment,” he explains. “To save fuel, manufacturers are moving to hybrids that use an electric motor. Our lightweight, high-efficiency motors make a significant difference.”

Yasa was recently named the UK’s Best Enterprise in the Lloyds TSB/Telegraph Enterprise Awards, and won a £50,000 prize. “It will go towards new lab equipment and an upgraded test facility – something we couldn’t have contemplated for at least another year,” says Woolmer.

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