Just add lightness

Hayley Everett

Looking at a new lightweight, high-power electric drive system for high-performance EVs.

It was Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus Cars, who coined the famous engineering mantra “simplify then add lightness” – but even he could not have foreseen how the philosophy would be applied in 2023. And by an ex-Lotus engineer too.

Ian Foley, CEO of Norfolk-based developer and manufacturer of electrification products for battery-electric vehicle drivetrains, started his career at Lotus Engineering in the 80s, developing active suspension systems for F1. His motorsport career has taken him to Benetton and endurance racing – and he even played a major hand in developing Williams F1’s hybrid powertrain that made the team so successful in 2009.

Fast forward thirty years and Foley and his team are at the forefront of electric motor and inverter development with a new lightweight, high-power electric drive system aimed at manufacturers of high-performance EVs.

Called the Ampere-220 e-axle, it combines a 3D-printed electric motor with all power electronics, including Equipmake’s own silicon carbide inverter, and an integrated transmission system in a compact unit that directly powers an EV’s axle. It brings, so its maker claims, a step change in performance for electric sports cars and supercars.

At its heart is the Ampere electric motor, which draws on both Equipmake’s motor expertise – featuring a spoke rotor design which has recently featured in the Ariel HIPERCAR in the form of Equipmake’s APM-200 motor – and pioneering knowledge in additive manufacturing and thermal engineering.

Extremely lightweight yet efficient and cost-effective, Ampere has peak power of 220kW and a maximum motor speed of 30,000rpm. Weighing just under 20kg, it offers power density of 11kW per kg – more than twice that of a conventional electric motor. The key to its performance is its combination of Equipmake’s spoke design with additive manufacturing, allowing Ampere’s metal structure to be 3D-printed, rather than milled from a solid billet.

This approach brings many advantages. Firstly, metal is only put where it is needed. Secondly, thermally efficient thin walls and optimised fine surface details are combined directly with the motor’s structure, replacing multi-part assemblies with a single, complex architecture that has exceptional cooling ability, is lightweight, has low inertia and allows for greatly increased rotational speed.

Available in both twin-motor specification, with 440kW peak power per axle with a total unit weight of just 85kg and single-motor application, with 220kW of peak power per axle, the Ampere-220 e-axle is designed, engineered, and manufactured at Equipmake’s headquarters in Snetterton.

It’s here that the company provides almost every electric vehicle solution for the automotive, aerospace, and marine sectors. Buses and coaches are a specialism too – the company has a rapidly growing business repowering these vehicles from internal combustion engine (ICE) to fully electric.

Offering ISO 26262 compliance and being ASIL-D ready, not to mention a huge amount of performance in a compact, lightweight package, Equipmake’s Ampere-220 e-axle is designed to provide a total off-the-shelf solution for manufacturers of electric sports cars.

With the technology available now and ready to be integrated immediately, this is one lightweight revolution from Norfolk that is not far away at all. Colin Chapman would be proud.

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