Presently, drives for Fully Electric Vehicles and Hybrid Electric Vehicles develop their highest efficiency of around 93–95% within a speed range of usually 1/4 to 1/3 of the maximum, and at an ideal torque, whereas in real-life driving cycles the motor operates at a wider range of speeds and at partial load, resulting in much lower efficiency.
Hi-Wi projects is the developing an advanced electric traction motors for electric vehicles.
The Hi-Wi acronym comes in fact from the project target of developing an electric architecture with both a higher efficiency and a wider application range, so that the vehicle can operate efficiently in all operating conditions.
With the anticipated growth of the electric and hybrid vehicle market, the demand for permanent magnets that are central to this technology is certain to grow dramatically. This has already led to a sharp increase in price for rare-earth metals (such as Neodymium (Nd), Dysprosium (Dy) and Terbium (Tb)) because they are essential additives to produce high energy-product magnets.
Considering the resource distribution of rare-earth metals, European car manufactures have to face the problem of restrictive and vulnerable supply chains for rare earth metals, since most reserves are outside Europe and more than 95% of the production is in China or in the hands of Chinese companies.
New technologies used in Hi-WI project guarantee several important improvements over current motor and vehicle architectures, such as delivering higher energy efficiency (i.e. more power with less battery consumption) over a wider spectrum of rotating speeds, decreasing resource dependency, because they use a reduced amount of rare earth materials, the new electromotors will eliminate or simplify the mechanical gearbox normally associated with electric motors through so-called magnetic gears, an innovation that might be further developed in the project and the resulting magnets will be smaller and lighter, and will need less cooling, leading to cheaper electromotors and therefore cars.
The motor architectures and the innovative materials studied in Hi-Wi project have the potential to reach way beyond the electronic vehicle market. Permanent magnet machines have a paramount importance in many other fields. Just to mention one, they are at the core of the electric generators used in all wind generators.
The project coordinated by The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge, UK has 7 participants from 4 countries.