Modular motors and virtual engineering - the latest developments for an electric future

16/07/2020

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) recently announced over £1 million in funding to 14 micro, small and medium-sized businesses set to bring the next generation of low-carbon technology to market. Three of these start-up organisations are advancing the technology of electric machines and power electronics.

The funding comes as part of the APC’s Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP) and will support companies in the development of a graphene-based sensor, a multi-voltage electric drive module and an innovative modular motor and invertor architecture.

As the automotive industry moves towards producing more vehicles on an electrified platform, the development of technology to improve the electric motors that propel these vehicles is of absolute importance. Motors are powerful and sophisticated devices and the current supplied to them must be carefully controlled using power electronics to ensure they perform smoothly, quietly and efficiently.

Josh Denne, TDAP Manager says: ‘There is a massive potential in the next generation electric machine market, which is open to those who have cutting-edge concepts. These three projects demonstrate exciting new thinking within this technology area; and through TDAP we hope to take these organisations on a journey from concept towards developing a viable market solution.’ 

PARAGRAF LIMITED 

Paragraf is unblocking the design of the electronic systems the world needs in order to decarbonise by realising the mass-production of graphene-based electronic devices. Having already partnered with CERN, Paragraf is now looking to other areas where its novel sensor technologies can be applied. This includes developing next generation, transformative electronic devices to exploit the unique properties of graphene, in a scalable and commercially viable way. Through TDAP they hope to further develop a component that increases the efficiency of all electric and hybrid-electric vehicles and systems. This in turn will accelerate the adoption of these machines and help to reduce carbon emissions faster.

Dr Olly Morris, Business Developer at Paragraf explains: ‘Paragraf’s devices have already surpassed the performance of conventional products and we’re excited to bring them to market with the help from TDAP. It’s a great programme as it’s been designed so that any aspect of technology development can be backed and this support can be accessed flexibly with the developer remaining as the decision-maker. This is really valuable and we’re pleased to be involved.’

ELECTRICAL COOLING SOLUTIONS

Electrical Cooling Solutions, together with TotalSim, is developing a simulation platform that will make high fidelity, multi-physics simulations for electric machines more accessible to companies in the automotive sector. For small organisations developing electric motors with the latest innovation there are multiple barriers when it comes to carrying out simulations.  Not only are the hardware and license requirements cost-prohibitive, but they often don’t have the expertise required to run the simulation in house. Built upon open-source solvers, Electrical Cooling Solutions is developing a simulation platform for small organisations to analyse electric motor performance using pre-existing validated workflow templates and cloud computing hardware for highly detailed simulations costed on a ‘per-simulation’ basis. This removes significant financial and implementation challenges faced by technology developers seeking to increase simulation activity. Through TDAP, the company hopes to develop the platform, called Cohere, from concept towards developing a commercially viable product.

Chris Tighe, Managing Director at Electrical Cooling Solutions, says: ‘Our aim is to produce a solution that can help small companies create game-changing innovation in electric machines. We want to be not only first to the market, but the best value-for-money platform given the productivity potential and intended costing model. TDAP offers us the opportunity to hone our business strategy and analyse the markets available to us. The expertise we gain from the team at the APC and our specific delivery partner is second to none and we are very excited to see how the process develops.’

EMPEL SYSTEMS 

Launched in October 2019 with just 20 people, EMPEL Systems has a combined experience of over 400 years in electrification. Taking their combined knowledge the team is now working to develop a scalable family of multi-voltage electric drive module products that offer high performance, unparalleled integration and flexibility alongside advancements in product value. The flexible and modular motor and inverter architecture means that it does not need to be reengineered as it can be made to suit each customer’s size requirements.

Jason King, Director at EMPEL Systems, says: ‘As a start-up, the funding we receive through TDAP will be vital to the next stage of our development as we aim to develop a demonstrator product and then a strategy to commercialise it. That’s why TDAP is the perfect match for EMPEL Systems. The programme has been so well put together and the team at the APC really know how to help SMEs accelerate their product development and business growth.’