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Electric Fiesta is powered by wheel-hub motors

01 May, 2013

Schaeffler has joined forces with Ford to build an experimental electric version of the Ford Fiesta that is driven by two 40kW motors built into the rear wheels. The liquid-cooled wheel-hub drives also contain all of the components needed for motor control, braking and safety, including the power electronics.

Each E-Wheel Drive is housed in a 16-inch wheel rim (above) and weighs 53kg. The drive can deliver 33kW continuously and up to 700Nm of torque.

The use of wheel-hub motors avoids the need for an axle and transmission system, as well as the engine of a conventional vehicle or the central motor of a conventional electric vehicle. This frees up space so that future four-person cars could be the same size as a two-person car is today.

The lack of a common axle also opens up the possibility of turning the wheels through 90 degrees to allow sideways parking.

“We can now re-think the city car without restrictions,” says Professor Peter Gutzmer, Schaeffler’s chief technical officer. “It will be a key factor in new vehicle concepts and automobile platforms in the future.”

A common criticism of wheel-hub motors is that they add unsprung weight to a vehicle, which could affect its handling. But according to Dr Raphael Fischer, director of the wheel hub drives group in Schaeffler’s eMobility division, recent winter testing of the electric Fiesta in Scandinavia, has disproved this. 

He says that the tests “confirmed that the widespread doubts that are repeatedly voiced regarding wheel-sprung masses – and thus also the potential areas of application – are unfounded and that even experienced test drivers see no significant differences in the driving behaviour.”

On the contrary, he adds, the Fiesta E-Wheel Drive displays “extraordinary dynamics”. As well as regulating the stability of the driving dynamics, the wheel-hub drives also allow “torque vectoring” – the selective distribution of torque to the wheels. 

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