22. June 2012
One of the roadblocks (as though there needs to be more) in the way of the development of electric vehicles has to do with things like neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-cobalt. Simply, the electric traction motors use permanent magnets that are made of these materials, and the price of rare earth materials is rising at a brisker pace than that at which EVs are proliferating.
So the British Technology Strategy Board has provided funding to Jaguar Land Rover, Ricardo, and Cobham Technical Services (i.e., it is providing half of the total £1.5-million, with the project partners kicking in the rest) for “Rapid Design and Development of a Switched Reluctance Traction Motor.”
The goal is to develop switched reluctance motors, which don’t use permanent magnets, that provide sufficient torque density for automotive applications, and which are sufficiently quiet for use in luxury vehicles like those made by Jaguar and Land Rover.
One of the means by which this three-year project will be accomplished is through software simulation, which is an area where Cobham has particular expertise. But as Kevin Ward, director of Cobham Technical Services-Vector Fields Software, noted, “Design software for switched reluctance motors is at about the same level as diesel engine design software when it was first introduced.” So Cobham is going to be enhancing its Opera design, finite element simulation and analysis suite for the program.
Said Tony Harper, Jaguar Land Rover head of Research, “It is important to understand the capability of switched reluctance motors in the context of the vehicle as a whole so that e can set component targets that will deliver the overall vehicle experience. Jaguar Land Rover will apply its expertise in designing and producing world-class vehicles to this project, with the aim of developing the tools and technology for the next generation of electric motors.”