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Developers claim `breakthrough` in rare-earth-free PM motors

13 November, 2012

The US motor developer UQM Technologies claims to have made “a significant breakthrough” in the development of a high-performance permanent magnet (PM) electric motor design that does not use rare-earth magnets. The work it is being backed by a $4m grant from the US Department of Energy, with UQM contributing 25% of the costs.

“We’ve developed an electromagnetic design that produces competitive power-density and efficiency with non-rare-earth magnets,” says UQM president and CEO, Eric Ridenour. “This is great progress toward our objective of identifying magnet materials and technology that can deliver the performance our customers expect, while limiting our exposure to price and supply concerns associated with rare-earth magnets.”

UQM is working with several US national laboratories on the project.

“The key to using non-rare-earth magnets in electric motors for vehicles is our patent-pending motor geometry, which in part defines the shape and magnetisation direction of the permanent magnets,” explains UQM’s vice-president of engineering, Jon Lutz. “The completion of the electromagnetic design and analysis task is a significant step in the process of advancing motor and generator technology for electric and hybrid electric vehicles, providing an alternative to rare-earth magnets in PM motor designs.”

The next phase under the DOE grant is the mechanical design of the motor. Work is now underway to build a proof-of-concept machine during 2013.

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