20 06 2019

UK consortium to drive new era of electric powertrain development

  • Ground-breaking concepts aim to provide the most cost-effective, lightweight, compact and efficient electric powertrain on the market
  • Ambitious ACeDrive project positions the UK as global leader in electric powertrain research and development
  • Match-funding awarded by the APC to help deliver mass-production ready technology
  • Project led by GKN Automotive in partnership with Drive System Design and University of Nottingham

ACeDrive (Advanced Cooling and Control of High Speed e-Drive) is backed by match-funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). Already progressing through concept selection, it aims to achieve the level of technology and performance outlined in the Automotive Council’s roadmap for 2040 and be production ready by 2023.

ACeDrive is aiming to be the world’s lightest and most efficient electric vehicle powertrain suitable for the volume market. To achieve this it adopts ground-breaking concepts in cooling and system integration, leading to a significant reduction in the number and size of components, the core targets for the programme are a 25% reduction in both packaging size and cost, a 20% drop in weight, and a 10% increase in efficiency compared to current equivalents.

The ACeDrive project will deliver a complete system that combines a downsized electric motor, optimised transmission and high-frequency inverter within a single unit, enabling shared cooling and a remarkably compact housing. Not only does this reduce the packaging size and cost; fewer interfaces means less internal friction, improved transmission alignment and a boost in efficiency and NVH management.

GKN Automotive, a global Tier One electric vehicle driveline supplier, is responsible for the design of the ACeDrive system, including the overall packaging and the development of the motor, inverter and transmission. Following detailed simulation and analysis, final design will commence in Q3 2019. Prototyping, rig and vehicle testing will follow in 2020, before a vehicle demonstrator equipped with the prototype system is unveiled for public demonstration in Q1 2021.

The project will be based at the GKN Automotive Innovation Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, with support from consortium partner Drive System Design in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, as well as the University of Nottingham.

Drive System Design is one of Europe’s leading automotive engineering consultancies, with a reputation for technical excellence in the field of electric drive unit efficiency and NVH optimisation. Its simulation-led approach will optimise ACeDrive as a whole unit, thereby identifying key trade-offs much earlier in the design process than is usually possible. Ultimately, its enhanced test capabilities will meet the growing requirements of the automotive industry for higher speed electric motor testing – up to and beyond 20,000rpm, and with voltages over 800V.

The University of Nottingham is noted for its expertise in thermal management,  semiconductor technology and high-speed motors. It will lead the development of the electric motor, the power electronics modules and advanced integrated cooling. Central to the ACeDrive concept will be the use of advanced SiC transistors, enabling higher frequency control unlocking efficiency improvements, enabling a high speed, next-generation design that is smaller than current motors of equivalent power and affordable for OEM customers.

Gordon Day, General Manager at GKN Automotive Innovation Centre, said: “In partnership with Drive System Design and the University of Nottingham, we are developing a truly advanced eDrive system, more compact and cost-effective than other technologies on the horizon. Our ambition is to help the UK take the lead in electric powertrain design and manufacturing capability.”

Simon Shepherd, Head of Electrified Powertrain at Drive System Design, said: “Our whole system approach to engineering will help to combine next-generation electronic components, ground-breaking integration and a high-speed motor, to deliver significantly greater power density and efficiency with lower cost to OEMs.”

The APC’s 2018 Roadmap Report, Towards 2040: A Guide to Automotive Propulsion Technologies, highlights the key growth opportunities for the UK supply chain in low-carbon propulsion systems. The ACeDrive project will examine the UK supply chain and its capability to support large-scale manufacture of Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD). With the support of the APC supply chain team, new contacts and business relationships are already being developed that will explore and demonstrate this potential.

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