RAC Cars News


Driveline technology to boost agility of electric cars

By raccars Published

BMW I8 with bike

GKN technology to increase cabin space and boost traction and agility in electric cars.

Automotive engineering company GKN is working on the development of advanced drivetrain technology which should mean a future of excellent traction, high performance and agility for electric cars. The UK firm has already made contributions to drive systems in cars such as the Ford Focus RS, the Porsche 918 Spyder and the BMW i8 and believes its future technology offerings will feature inner-wheel electric motors, which allow the torque to each wheel to be continuously controlled.

Small electric cars to benefit from technology

Theo Gassman, GKN’s boss of eDrive systems and advanced engineering, said that the technology did not currently exist to create the compact electric drivetrains that would be needed in sports cars which require significant power but he said the time was nearing when it would be available for city cars when the power output needed for each motor need only be between 27 to 40bhp. Gassman says that this type of individual motor layout can enable torque vectoring and the improvement of both traction control and agility.

There is also the potential for vehicles to have smaller brakes because each motor could become a high-drag generator and slow the vehicle down as energy is regenerated. Gassman adds that the cabin space of these city cars can also be increased as moving motors into the wheels allows for a ‘skateboard architecture layout’. This means that there is no requirement for a transmission tunnel or space for a traditional combustion engine.

Another option for high-performance electric cars

The technology is not likely to replace the likes of GKN’s eAxle, however. This type of motor module will still feature in more performance-biased electric cars for the foreseeable future. Gassman says that this allows for one car to feature two eAxle modules which power each end of the vehicle. The BMW i8, for example, has one module in the front but two allows for even greater torque levels.

Tesla uses this type of layout in its all-wheel-drive, potent Model S electric cars but Gassman claims that the drive modules created by GKN are the best available. He suggests that two of these modules included in one new sports car could result in unrivalled performance potential.

Gassman says that GKN is focused on becoming a supplier of all drivetrain technology, from CV joints connecting to a car’s wheels to the electric motors themselves. He has pledged that the company’s ‘first complete driveline’ would be included in a new car in the near future, possibly by 2018 or 2019.

Gassman would not reveal which car the driveline would feature in but did confirm that it would be a hybrid electric car. He said that this sort of hybrid power offered the best solution in modern-day vehicles. He also revealed that the electrified part of the driveline would be highly modular and produce torque levels of up to 1,475lb ft.

An adaptable future for GKN Driveline

He added that this driveline can also be scaled up or down to enable it to be utilised in multiple platforms. This suggests that its inclusion in other cars in the future is also on the cards. The GKN Driveline company wants to see a future in which multiple car manufacturers purchase different variants of the firm’s adaptable driveline. It aims to create them to allow for the simple integration into different models without the need for any major adaptations. Gassman believes this will drive down the cost of electric cars and allow manufacturers to meet the rapidly growing demand for this type of vehicle.

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