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Ford's eWheelDrive has designs on the urban car of the future

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May 1, 2013

Cutaway view of the eWheelDrive hub motor

Cutaway view of the eWheelDrive hub motor

Image Gallery (17 images)

It's predicted that by the year 2050 there will be 9.3 billion people on Earth and 6.4 billion of them will be living in cities. There could also be four times as many cars on the roads as today, leading to an incredible degree of urban congestion and gridlock. That’s the impetus behind Ford and technology partner Schaeffler’s eWheelDrive electric research car, that moves the motor to the wheel hubs.

Demonstrated last Friday at Lommel, Belgium, the eWheelDrive is under development by Ford and project leader Schaeffler, a German automotive component manufacturer and supplier. The aim of the project is to investigate the potential for smaller, more agile cars better suited to crowded urban environments.

The eWheelDrive doesn't look very revolutionary. It’s based on that most conventional of cars, the Ford Fiesta, but the real secret isn’t under the bonnet because there’s nothing there except the battery. Instead, the engine has given way to two electric motors mounted in the hubs of the rear wheels along with the braking and cooling systems.

The eWheelDrive is based on the Ford Fiesta

This setup also isn’t entirely new, but what is new is the fact that the eWheelDrive is not intended to make it more sporty or just greener, but as a way of developing car technologies for increasingly crowded city streets. The design frees up space under the bonnet that is normally occupied by a conventional engine or a central electric motor, opening the door for smaller, more agile cars that are more able to negotiate the warrens of London or Hong Kong.

According to the partners, such an arrangement would allow automakers to build a four-person car in the space of two-person car or to produce new steering arrangements that could allow cars to drive sideways to maneuver into the tightest of parking spaces. “This highly integrated wheel-hub drive makes it possible to rethink the city car without restrictions, and could be a key factor in new vehicle concepts and automobile platforms in the future,” said Peter Gutzmer, chief technical officer, Schaeffler.

The battery of the eWheelDrive revealed

The next step for Ford and Schaeffler will be to team up with Continental, RWTH Aachen and the University of Applied Sciences, Regensburg, on project MEHREN (Multimotor Electric Vehicle with Highest Room and Energy Efficiency) to develop two new vehicles by 2015.

The aim of the project will be to increase the integration of in-wheel motors in a car, as well as studying vehicle dynamics control, braking, stability and the ”fun-to-drive” factor. The goal of will be to solve problems caused by heavier wheels, improve brakes, reduce noise and vibration, improve the suspension, and ensure that the motors deliver enough torque.

“This is an exciting project to work on with Schaeffler because it potentially opens new options for the development of zero emission vehicles with very efficient packaging and exceptional maneuverability,” said Pim van der Jagt, Ford’s director of Research and Advanced Engineering in Europe. “Looking forward, we have the opportunity to scope out the vehicle’s capabilities and how we might overcome some of the challenges presented by implementing the technology.”

The video below outlines the eWheelDrive program.

Source: Ford

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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19 Comments

At last it looks like there is positive advancements with the EV. Schaeffler really does appear to be coming up with the goods. I feel quite excited about this Ford Fiesta as I drive into London and Paris several times a week. This would allow me to be able to fit all my gear into the car and be able to virtually sideways park - great. I can't wait to see what Schaeffler and the others come up with during project MEHREN. Hopefully they will solve the battery problems, ( should be a Continental speciality ), so that mileage on a full charge can be considerably increased. I also see the need for front and rear protection as, with the 90 degree steering lock, it's going to be possible to squeeze into some pretty tight spaces, so the car might get shunted a bit when the cars parked either end are trying to get out !

Peter James
2nd May, 2013 @ 01:05 am PDT

Nothing new about having the motor within the wheel. The clever bit would be getting the motor mass low enough so that the sprung to unsprung ratio is not too compromised..... Still, it's all progress, one way or another.

Grunt
2nd May, 2013 @ 02:59 am PDT

Funny....just saw that in the Porsche Museum yesterday.....I think he invented it back in 1897

BillB
2nd May, 2013 @ 08:09 am PDT

Thats a huge battery under the hood! Wondering how much is the mileage coverage? As its demonstrated in the video, the handling of the car is actually pretty good, much less worrying than expected I must say. And it is delighted to hear Ford and Schaeffler will be joining force with child company Continental, RWTH Aachen and the University of Applied Sciences, Regensburg to further develop projects on electric cars, I believe with all the input from the top auto companies and top university, the result will be much profound. Competitors like Protean may therefore need to put in more effort if they want to win the match against Schaeffler. Since electric car will be the future for transportation, you wont be hearing anymore "voom voom" from vehicles like now, so you wont be able to recognize a Ferrari or Lamborghini is actually approaching you from far. I am eager to see how will the auto companies to reinvent their identity!

Johnson Marc
2nd May, 2013 @ 09:24 am PDT

This is not new technology, but it is the right idea. I used to drive huge haul trucks that had very small diesel powered engines that powered generators, the generator powered drive motors on the wheels. The Trucks were made in Sweden I believe, and they're still making them.

I read an article last year that said that the company was selling more of them than ever. The haul trucks were being shipped to mines all over the world. The one I drove was an 80 ton. I had to climb a ladder to get into the cab from under the chassis. If these motors could propel a truck that big and heavy up and down mountains it should be a no brainer to do the same with passenger vehicles. Even solar power could do most of the work on sunny days. I advocate for Alternative Energy Product Group.

Richard Viers
2nd May, 2013 @ 09:41 am PDT

As Porsche found out 110 yrs ago this won't work well enough because the RPM is so low it has little starting power so they must be made too heavy, powerful, expensive just to start up a hill, the controlling spec for most vehicles.

Now Ford will again confirm this after playing around a while.

It's really only good for very light vehicles like MC's especially where the rider can help starting by pushing off with their legs. I'm debating right now on whether it's workable in a 2wh Streamliner.

But in cars, not a chance.

jerryd
2nd May, 2013 @ 09:43 am PDT

It's time not only to "rethink the city car", but to rethink the city. In my book, The P.E.T. Solution, the message is that we have many "means" (i.e. concept vehicles such as the one featured in this article) for getting around the future cities, but no "ways" (i.e. infrastructure ) to make using these urban-specific vehicles (USVs) safe, convenient, and comfortable to drive.

The P.E.T. (People Express Thruways) is designed to give these USVs dedicated, exclusive pathways to get around cities; like an expanded bike path, that accommodate these smaller vehicles that are optimum for city travel, especially the single-occupant vehicle drivers.

My hypothesis is that unless urban travelers are given these safer, more comfortable ways to get around in these USVs, they are unlikely to make the switch from larger, inefficient cars.

P.E.T.
2nd May, 2013 @ 10:02 am PDT

For the drive wheels, they should try a single Fred Flintstone wheel (which extends to the entire width of the vehicle).

They could build in all the necessary stop and go elements including energy recovery and storage i.e., flywheel in a vacuum.

The sheer brutality of the ride would be sufficient to charge the batteries via coil-over-magnet shock absorbers - as one corner compensates for the other.

Mirmillion
2nd May, 2013 @ 11:09 am PDT

Hmmmm. Now if they could just 'build in' a small variable ratio transmission into each motorized wheel, you might just get enough torque to start off uphill - or at least start off fast enough at a green light to keep out of everyone else's way.

I'm hoping some consideration in that fun-to-drive factor includes the thing being able to get out of it's own way when it has to.

OuldBill
2nd May, 2013 @ 01:34 pm PDT

This is Amazing... I'm just sat here kicking myself in my ass for not patenting my design for this technology a year ago.. Yet as I was.. I remembered my design has one thing over this one, not only do I have the Ewheel design.. My vehicle employs Vortechnology which allows it to Fly :)

JPLAZ1912
2nd May, 2013 @ 11:06 pm PDT

Can you imagine what would would happen to the traffic with parked vehicles moving out with a relative speed to the traffic of zero. Boggles the mind.

Nick Hill
2nd May, 2013 @ 11:19 pm PDT

Instead of a "four person car" in the space of a "two person car" I would like to see a smaller lighter two person car, e.g., a curb weight under 2K lbs. And if they are really serious about efficiency, as they claim, then a drag coefficient < .2. (

Don Duncan
3rd May, 2013 @ 12:06 pm PDT

re; Nick Hill

Have you ever seen cars get in and out of tight spaces?

Slowburn
3rd May, 2013 @ 01:31 pm PDT

re; Don Duncan

I have tried to cram a weeks worth of groceries into the cab of my pickup (It was raining and I had a jumbo package of TP and paper towels; I will take the four seater every time.

Slowburn
3rd May, 2013 @ 05:16 pm PDT

Starting torque? Electric motors produce all their torque from ZERO Rpm - as soon as they start spinning you get max torque. If starting is an issue use a gearbox.

Marc 1
3rd May, 2013 @ 07:04 pm PDT

Why? These people know about cars so why increase unsprung mass so much? Just stick 1 motor where a rear drive diff would go, it's also low and centered there. it doesn't impact on the floor pan too much especially if you design around it.

Craig Jennings
4th May, 2013 @ 05:39 pm PDT

re; Craig Jennings

Because then the driveline interferes with doing things with the tire like steering it 90 degrees.

Slowburn
5th May, 2013 @ 07:30 pm PDT

I think the point that most of you are missing is the fact that this is a prototype. It's just the start of something that will make the EV a viable option. As Johnson Marc said above, Schaeffler and Ford are going to be teaming up with Continental, RWTH Aachen and the University of Applied Sciences, Regensburg to develop the EV much further. Like the mobile phone back in the 60's - this is where it all starts.

Peter James
6th May, 2013 @ 06:53 am PDT

Porsche might be the inventor of the hub drive, but it was more than 100 years ago. Hundred years ago it might be weak, heavy and low RPM, but we are talking about the same tech a hundred years later, just take a look back at the cars a hundred years ago, today's impossibility is the possibility for tomorrow! I believe some day in the future, a battery sized about your computer mouse can power your vehicle one whole week without recharging it. I have to agree with Richard Viers that ewheel is the correct direction but certainly not the final one, who knows if one day we still need wheels on the vehicle or not? The ewheel is undoubtedly solving our imminent city problems, an old idea may need to reach the correct timing to work out.

Johnson Marc
26th May, 2013 @ 10:57 am PDT
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