Oxford University in the UK has spun-out a new company, Oxford Yasa Motors, set up to commercialize a lightweight energy efficient electric motor developed at the Department of Engineering Science. The new technology promises to help firms build more efficient electric vehicles.

Astute readers will realize that power to weight and the size issues of motors are going to weigh heavily on the minds of automotive designers and engineers.  With essentially all of the grand British automotive industry gone into international, foreign hands or just gone the Brits are bucked up again.  Oxford’s Dr. Malcolm McCulloch, head of Oxford’s Electronic Power Group says, “British engineering spurred the original growth of the automotive industry, and we believe engineering excellence can reinvigorate the industry again.”  He goes on to say, “We’re taking technology which has already been proven in a number of vehicles to a wider market. With Oxford Yasa Motors we’ll be able to deliver a range of commercial products that will help the UK launch itself as a premier destination for electric vehicle development.”  Not down or out by any means over there.  Yesterday was the Lotus side of fuel to power, today its power to the road.  Let’s hope they’ve learned the lesson of the old Lucas electrical terrors, a bane that remains for many – unforgettable.

Money has already started to pile up for the development of Oxford Yasa.  The group received £75,000 in funding from the Oxford University Challenge Seed fund to build a prototype for use in high performance electronic vehicles.  Add to that they’ve announced success in securing a grant from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board as part of a £1.89 million consortium to develop a higher volume version of the motor.  Then there is a closed £1.45 million funding round with private investor Seven Spires Investments Limited.  That comes to £3.415,000 or $5,658,000. – just to start – so one realizes the Brits are serious about this motor.

Oxford's McCulloch and New Motor

Oxford's McCulloch and New Motor

McCulloch adds, “We have optimized the materials and design, so that the motor is much lighter and more effective, giving half the volume and twice the torque for the same power output. This electric motor technology will reduce fuel consumption and also help us move away fossil-based fuels to alternative energies.”  Twice the torque?  That will be something.

McCulloch and Dr Tim Woolmer, then a PhD student in the group, originally devised the electric motor for the 2008 Morgan Lifecar and to build a prototype for use in high performance electronic vehicles.  “We’re taking technology which has already been proven in a number of vehicles to a wider market,” says McCulloch.

Oxford's New Motor.  Click image for more.

Oxford's New Motor. Click image for more.

For the past 8 months the Oxford team has collaborated with the engineering firm Delta Motorsports to configure the motor for a new four-seat coupe, which is scheduled for track tests scheduled at the end of 2009.

Delta's four seater to use the Oxford motor. Click image for the largest view.

Delta's four seater to use the Oxford motor. Click image for the largest view.

The motor can also be adapted for aerospace, renewable and industrial applications where improved power to weight performance combined with the ability to offer more compact electric drive systems will offer significant commercial advantage to customers. Investor Ian Page from Seven Spires Investments commented saying,  “This is a great opportunity to participate in world-leading technology at the forefront of a rapidly expanding multi-billion dollar market for electric motors.”

With such a cash position to start and the likelihood that much of the heavy industrial work such as castings and machined parts can be supplied to specifications, the company’s goals to sell a low volume of the motors in its first year, as well as scaling up production and developing new models seem quite reasonable.

This announcement and the Lotus announcement covers the coachbuilder of automotive vehicles heavy industrial needs.  A kit of sorts is now on the open market for a complete power source to power delivery.  This kind of news must make the large and slower automobile manufacturers a little unnerved.  Congratulations are in order for these Brits.

That leaves the major industrial investments of body frames, electric power steering and an air conditioning compressor for a full coachbuilder’s list of vendors to support designing bodies, interiors and accessories to assemble into custom designs.  One has to wonder just how long it will be before one gets on the net and designs one’s own car.

Lets see, a slick and light carbon fiber frame holding a Lotus generator set, 20 miles of battery only power, 30 seconds of full drive motor power from the capacitors, 150 hp at the wheels, power steering, air conditioning with a leather interior cased in a station wagon body and I’m in!


5 Comments so far

  1. zack on September 16, 2009 2:29 AM

    this is similar to a story on http://yovia.com/blogs/fuel/ about a future car of tomorrow with a similar engine.

  2. Matt on September 16, 2009 6:19 AM

    They present this as a stand alone solution – but I perceive it as just a piece of the puzzle. A better battery / energy storage system is still necessary.

    And, I also believe that hybrids are only a bridge to the total electric car. When range and recharge issues are resolved – hybrids will disappear.

  3. donb on September 16, 2009 7:28 AM

    While a lighter weight, more efficient motor is always welcome, having a powerful motor the size of a thimble that weighs nothing and is 100% efficient would only make a minor contribution to solving the overall problem of an electric vehicle. The big problem centers around the size, weight, power, energy storage and cost of the battery.

  4. Swiss Ball Exercises on November 8, 2010 6:07 AM

    Thanks for an idea, you sparked at thought from a angle I hadn’t given thoguht to yet. Now lets see if I can do something with it.

  5. Brett Hemphill on November 30, 2010 2:36 PM

    Better batteries are here (2010), one of the keys i charging them properly. Good charging methods make a real difference to the energy returned to the vehicle and lifespan of the battery system.

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