Car motors will disappear ? into the wheels: Siemens VDO starts eCorner development
I think there may be a Geo or 2 on here that could have a simpler, yet similar solution in their future.
Regensburg, August 08, 2006
Siemens VDO engineers are working on plans to integrate the drivetrain, steering, shock absorbers and brakes directly into the wheels of future cars. This concept, called eCorner, is the basis for the ecological "Drive-by-Wire" automobiles, which will become a common sight on roads in 15 years. eCorner replaces the conventional wheel suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers, mechanical steering, hydraulic brakes and, above all, conventional internal combustion engines. For car owners, eCorner translates into improved fuel mileage, more safety and greater convenience. eCorner provides designers with all new freedom to create future cars with an electric drivetrain and electronic control.
There are enormous requirements placed on tomorrow's vehicles. In the future, it will be vital to be as thrifty as possible with every drop of crude oil, making it necessary to find alternatives to large conventional internal combustion engines. As a result, Siemens VDO projects the traditional engine architecture will be replaced by electric wheel hub motors, which act directly on the wheels to accelerate the car. The four independently operating wheel hub motors will offer extremely dynamic driving on the future highway. The possible elimination of the internal combustion engines burning gasoline or diesel fuel will reduce emissions and will even satisfy the extremely strict laws being anticipated in the future. The Siemens VDO eCorner will make it possible to develop Drive-by-Wire vehicles on which the drivetrain, steering and brakes provide common support for the driver in critical driving situations, thus helping to avoid potential accidents.
The unsprung weight factor doesn't seem to be addressed in this application. If a heavy electric motor is on the unsprung side of the suspension, driving dynamics, turning, and handling could suffer. I know it's in its infancy, but I'm excited to see what develops, and if it works. The traditional, independent half-shaft/CV joint seems to get the power into a lighter wheel config. I'm sure they have thought of this and should be working on it.
I agree about the unsprung weight concern (I've been thinking about that problem with electric direct drive since oh, about 1976).
I think with alloy wheels, permanent magnet rotors, aluminum wire, ironless stator electromagnets, and an aluminum hub/knuckle - the weight could be reduced considerably. Of course for high performance handling, inboard mounted motors with cv/drive shafts may be inevitable for now.
An active/preemptive suspension like Bose proposed in 2004 (again not too new) could make a big difference too. A friend who works at Bose said he saw a demo of a car driving over a huge curb: it just 'melted' over it like it wasn't even there. So cool.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein