This month sees the launch in Grenoble, France of the three-year, €7.2m European Union ‘Horizon 2020’ project ModulED, which brings together 10 European research institutes, key members of the automotive-industry value chain and universities to develop electric drive-trains for third-generation electric vehicles.
The project will focus on boosting drive-train performance to meet vehicle-owner requirements, to make manufacturing more efficient and to reduce environmental impact and vehicle cost.
The ModulED team will leverage recent innovations from diverse industries, including integrating the frequency, voltage and high-temperature benefits of wide-bandgap semiconductors like gallium nitride (GaN). Such devices allow the electronic circuitry that changes direct current to alternating current (DC-AC) to be integrated directly into the motor.
Coordinated by Grenoble-based Leti – a research institute of CEA Tech, the technology research branch of France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) – ModulED involves the companies BRUSA Elektronik AG (Switzerland), Punch Powertrain NV (Belgium), ZG GmbH (Germany), Siemens (France), Efficient Innovation (France); universities RTWH Aachen University, Chalmers University and Eindhoven University of Technology, and Leti’s sister CEA Tech research institute Liten. The project leverages Leti’s expertise in wide-bandgap semiconductors along with Liten’s know-how in magnetic materials and simulation.
Other recent innovations that the project will develop for the new drive-trains include:
- processes for manufacturing magnetic materials for the magnetic part of the motor (lowering the density of the rare-earth element);
- a motor architecture that allows modularity in production;
- transmission and cooling systems that are compatible with hybrid vehicles; and
- the optimization of braking systems to recover energy in the braking phase.
“Electric vehicles are a key component of the EU’s commitment to limit climate change, but current electric vehicles face challenges preventing large market acceptance, including consumer resistance due to cost and limited driving ranges,” says Bernard Strée, project coordinator at Leti. “ModulED will target these challenges via the manufacturing process, including the mass-production context, increased value-chain involvement and lifecycle analysis for optimized duration and minimized environmental impact.”