Slovenian company Elaphe has created in-wheel electric motors that have been tested in the worst conditions winter could throw at them.
One of the main reasons we don’t see production electric cars with motors in the wheels has been that wheels take a lot of abuse, bumping over broken pavement, driveways, sometimes even curbs, and slamming into potholes. In-wheel electric motors haven’t been able to stand up to the abuse.
Elaphe’s video shows its motors undergoing testing on an ice-covered test track in Heihe, China designed to test the durability (and noise) of car components over harsh vibrations.
The motors are packaged as a complete wheel hub, with disc or drum brakes, the motor, bearings, and everything an automaker would need to bolt them on to the end of the suspension.
Wheel motors could help automakers take advantage of one of the primary benefits of electric cars: They can offer a lot of room inside with a relatively small footprint. They don’t need a big engine compartment, just a space under the floor for batteries. With motors in the wheels, they don’t even need a separate space for that within the car’s body.
Without axles or gear boxes, wheel motors would also be more efficient and improve electric cars’ range.
Another advantage is that it would simplify traction- and stability control systems, because engineers could directly control the torque or resistance at each wheel, rather than controlling power and braking separately, and sometimes increasing power to a centralized motor, while applying the brake at one wheel for example, to get the car moving in snow.
Larger automotive suppliers have also been developing competing technologies, such as Bosch’s e-axle, which combines the motor, transmission, and power control unit on a single axle that can be dropped into an existing car design, such as for the standalone rear axle of an all-wheel drive SUV.
It’s not clear whether Elaphe’s wheel motors will make it into an electric car or SUV soon, but the video indicates the company may be well on the way to solving one of the primary challenges with the motors.