Low Cost Wheel Motors for Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Project Lead:  René-Pierre Allard, NRCan - Ottawa
Lead Proponent: TM4 Inc.
Location: Boucherville, Québec 
ecoEII Contribution:  $ 3,744,768
Project Total:  $ 8,239,024
Strategic Area:  Transportation


Electric vehicle development represents a strategic option for Canada. For many years, several Canadian small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have been front-runners in their respective fields, helping Canada earn a strong reputation for innovation in certain key areas. After demonstrating the relevance and feasibility of several technical scenarios, the global electric vehicle industry is now focusing on developing solutions that are more integrated, more effective and more specialized. In order to meet growing market demand for electric or hybrid vehicles, auto companies are seeking out high-performance, reliable components at low cost.

Wheel motors are an ideal solution since they eliminate the need for transmissions, allowing for increased efficiency. They also free up room in the vehicle where the drive system and differential would normally be located, which is significant in compact vehicle development. Finally, wheel motors provide better vehicle performance in terms of road adherence. A number of technical issues have hindered wheel motor technology commercialization. The weight of the motor itself poses problems for the suspension system. However, the high costs associated with the system (inverter/motor) were the largest barrier to commercialization of this technology.

Project Objective:

The objective of this project is to design an in-wheel motor electric drive system for electric vehicles, with one of the highest power densities in the world, and at the lowest possible cost. This system will consist of one or more power converters and electric machines, to be assembled and bench tested, and then tested on the road in an electric vehicle. Several experimental prototypes of engine and electronic power subcomponents will use innovative materials and/or concepts. This project will allow an entire chain of expert Canadian suppliers to take part in the development and eventual commercialization of this new innovative powertrain topology.

Benefits to Canada:

Canada is at the forefront of clean transportation technology research and development (fuel cells, battery materials, charging infrastructure, powertrains, etc.). The project will enable Canadian partners to significantly improve their international competitiveness, which will strengthen Canada’s position as a major player in this technological and industrial area.

The proposed solutions will improve vehicle reliability and durability, thus increasing buyer and consumer confidence. The impact of increased zero greenhouse-gas emission vehicle use will contribute to Canada’s energy balance.                  

Project Status:

The final phase has been completed. It allowed us to meet some system requirements requested by integrator CTA-BRP and to finish the engine design studies that were already underway. The knowledge and technologies studied and tested during project Etre through the grant are incredibly valuable in terms of TM4’s technological advancement and expertise.

Project Partners:

Centre national du transport avancé (CNTA)
Concordia University