Speed has always been a top priority for supercar builders, and they’re now in the race of a lifetime to use electricity before climate policy cuts down on combustion engines.
Thus, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz are looking for start-ups such as YASA, an Oxford-based electric motor company, to have the expertise and technology to meet the unique challenge of electrifying the most efficient vehicles.
Batteries are very heavy and electric motors can overheat if driven too hard. This is a big deal for niche industries that charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for light cars that can howl 10 revs of a truck at full throttle.
This year, Daimler bought YASA. YASA has developed a high performance “Axial Flux” electric motor that weighs 23 kg (50.7 lb). manipulate.
YASA already manufactures engines for Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg and unknown British supercar company Ferrari. Daimler supplies the high performance AMG brand and will soon become the name of the Mercedes-Benz automotive company.
Based a few miles from YASA, Saietta has developed a variety of water-cooled axial flow motors. The company is preparing to produce engines for the large Asian motorcycle market, but is making a larger prototype for Reuters and is in talks with a manufacturer of hypercars, two of which are interesting. He said he had shown it.
“These manufacturers know the combustion engine forward, backward and upside down,” said Graham Lenden, commercial director of Saietta. “But they don’t know about the electric drive, and they’re looking for someone to hold their hand.”
However, this is uncharted territory, and there is not yet a clear roadmap to electricity for performance vehicles. Supercar builders must invest billions of dollars to survive the demise of combustion engines, and there is no guarantee that the technology they use will pay off in the long run.
Weight is an enemy
High-end supercars and hypercars (two sports cars approaching professional level performance) are very profitable and capital-intensive niche markets for automakers.
Consultant AlixPartners and data firm IHS Markit will market more than 152,000 “luxury” and “ultra-luxury” sports cars around the world in 2021 with prices between 100,000 and 10 million pounds (137,000 to 13 , $ 7 million). Expected to increase by almost 50. Up to 223,000 units in 2026.
However, YASA founder Woolmer said his company’s long-term memories of Daimler will allow German automakers to use them in all models when switching to electric in future iterations of the engine. He said it was to cut costs.
“Automotive technology does not increase in volume overnight. You tend to start in the high-end niche sector, ”says Woolmer.
Ultimately, the manufacturers of efficient electric vehicles must find the means to develop lighter and more powerful batteries. However, today’s battery technology cannot compete with the sustained power of gasoline engines, which is why we’re redesigning everything from electric motors to body materials.
Axial-flow electric motors are flat, round devices called “panques” that are lighter and more efficient than traditional “radial-flow” or “sausage” cylindrical motors.
YASA engines are oil cooled so they don’t overheat and are much more efficient than traditional engines. So they developed the device as part of their PhD at the University of Oxford and founded the company in 2009. Tim Woolmer said.
Motors are more efficient and can extend the range of electric vehicles by up to 7%. In addition, due to its low power consumption, car manufacturers can remove some of the heavy batteries and reduce vehicle weight by up to 10%. ..
YASA has a small factory at its headquarters in Oxford, which manufactures engines for the SF90 Stradale hybrid model and Ferrari’s 296 GTB hybrid model, as well as test engines for AMG. Daimler is looking for ways to expand production in its own factories.
Chris Harris, CEO of YASA, said the acquisition by the German giant did not end work with clients like Ferrari.
“They want us to continue working with supercar customers because it’s state of the art,” he added. “Technology is crumbling as it matures. “
Ferrari CTO Michael Raters described the YASA Motor hybrid model as “car first”, adding that Italian sports car makers rely on the technical expertise of their suppliers in their quest for vehicles. electric. paddy field.
Recruitment: Battery Revolution
Automakers are also looking beyond the engines in their weight loss plans.
Mate Rimac, CEO of Croatian electric hypercar maker Rimac, said that the chassis and body of the C-Two model are both made of carbon fiber and the battery is part of the car’s structure to save weight. . Noted.
The company has established a joint venture with Volkswagen’s luxury sports car unit. Porsche It includes VW Bugatti The brand also uses “torque vectoring” to improve the performance of the wheel motors to help cornering.
British sports car maker Lotus has developed a new electric platform using a lightweight aluminum alloy. This will reduce the structural weight of the vehicle by 37% and start production of the first fully electric sports car in 2026.
Lotus is owned by Geely of China and Etica Automotive of Malaysia, and is also active as an automotive supplier and engineer for other car manufacturers. According to chief executive Matt Windle, the company is in talks to supply the platform to another automaker and has attracted interest from several other automakers.
“Considering the cost and speed of electrification, collaboration is the way to go,” said Windle.
Chinese automaker FAW has partnered with U.S. engineering and design firm Silk EV to set up a Silk-FAW company that plans to manufacture electric sports cars in Italy.
We are looking at high speed engines that use carbon fiber components in the vehicle frame and using copper wire technology in the aerospace industry to reduce engine weight by 20%, but we are also looking at other options. .
“Lightning is even more important than higher levels of electricity,” said Roberto Fedeli, vice president of innovation and technology at Silk-FAW.
For most of the affluent sports car buyers who use their car for recreation or commuting and don’t want to do multiple laps at high speed on the race track, just reduce the weight and use more efficient engines. May be sufficient.
Those who do can wait a long time.
“Unless the battery revolutionizes, it will never carry the amount of power that a fuel tank carries,” said Woolmer, founder of YASA.
“For longer forms of racing it will be for a while. “