Accelerating progress on electric-powered transport

Professor James Broughton

Through its work with one high-performance electric motor manufacturer, the Joining Technology Research Centre at Oxford Brookes University has helped the automotive industry make significant progress in the development of electric motors for mass production.

Led by Professor James Broughton, the team has helped YASA Motors to produce more efficient, more reliable, more powerful electric motors that use less material and take less time to make, leading to significant cost reductions for the business and its high-profile clients.

By providing crucial research and development over a more than a decade, James’s team has accelerated progress towards sustainable mass production of next generation electric vehicles, contributing significantly to the UK automotive industry’s progress towards Government targets for the total electrification of transport by 2050.

Ensuring optimum performance

Working with YASA
Yasa Motors and JTRC award winning KTP Winner for Engineering Excellence Award, KTP Best of the Best Awards Finalist and Best Partnership Award.

With their narrow, compact design, YASA electric motors were typically half the size and a third of the weight of conventional electric motors, simpler to manufacture and easier to integrate with existing automotive technology. However, early prototypes proved slow and expensive to build, and had a high rate of failure. Part of the problem was that the novel design of the YASA motor relied heavily on adhesive bonding.

Experts in the JTRC identified an improved bonding process and suggested refinements to the company’s manufacturing process rules to reduce assembly errors. Further detailed design modifications suggested by the team eliminated time-consuming and expensive rework, significantly reducing the cost of producing the motor.

To further improve the performance and power demand potential of the motor, the team advised YASA on the introduction of lightweight, injection-moulded composite materials into its design, patenting new joining processes, investigating novel cooling mechanisms, and helping to overcome issues with noise, vibration, and poor heat extraction caused as a result. This lightweighting will have ongoing benefits for YASA’s customers, including reduced component wear and maintenance, and an extension of service life.

YASA’s P400 R Series motor is now manufactured using advanced materials and proprietary construction techniques that enable high-volume production with significant customer cost benefits, paving the way towards its inclusion in lower cost electric-driven production vehicles.

Facilitating growth

Since the JTRC’s first involvement with YASA in 2011, the company has grown from 12 employees producing less than 50 motors per year, to more than 150 capable of delivering 100,000 units a year, thanks in a large part to the efficiencies and cost savings gained as a result of this ongoing partnership.

The manufacturing process for one of the company’s P400 motors reduced from 7 to 2 days, resulting in a saving of around £16.7 million per year. 

Defect rates fell by a factor of 100, saving YASA almost £100,000 per year, whilst the introduction of new technologies reduced part costs, saving a further £1.14 million for every 3,000 motors produced.

“The combination of expertise and equipment [at the JTRC] attracted us… but everyone here has been blown away by the results.”

Dr Tim Woolmer, Founder and CTO, YASA Motors

Increased client base

The improved robustness of the YASA motor led to it being adopted by Jaguar and incorporated into its C-X75 supercar, dubbed ‘the most technologically-advanced road car ever conceived’. As a result, YASA Motors was shortlisted for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ Award for Automotive Innovation.

YASA’s technology has since been adopted in other high-end sports cars, and its motors supplied to mainstream manufacturers for use in production electric vehicles as well as to reduce engine noise and reliance on diesel fuel in hovercraft design and build.

YASA Motors has also become a key partner in the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) project, where the company’s experts are involved in developing and testing ground-breaking technology that it is hoped will eventually power the world’s fastest all-electric aeroplane.

Awarded

Image credit:

Electric car charger - photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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