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Hybrid van maker expands into motor manufacturing

10 June, 2013

Britain’s largest producer of hybrid electric vans has developed its own range of axial-flux permanent magnet motors and has started to manufacture them after finding that those on the market did not meet its needs.

The Ashwoods group has set up a new business in Exeter, called Ashwoods Electric Motors, to produce the motors which, it claims, offer the lowest cost per kW on the market and have industrial as well as automotive applications.

The motors, developed with the help of £1.8m of funding from the Government-backed Technology Strategy Board, have an efficiency of more than 94% and can deliver 2–60kW of continuous power and 30–250Nm of torque. A 14.9kW, 70Nm version weighs 19kg.

The stackable motors, which can operate from 24–400V supplies, use a novel cooling system and have been designed for ease of assembly, with each one taking less than 45 minutes to build. Three patents have been granted and three more are pending covering the way the company has combined advanced materials with low-cost manufacturing techniques.

The scalable, modular motors have high power densities and can operate with or without feedback devices, depending on the level of control required.

“Our motors provide one of the lowest dollar-per-kilowatt costs in the industry today,” says Bob Beckwith, Ashwood’s global applications manager for motors. “We have harnessed creative design to innovative use of materials, in order to drive down costs and improve durability.”

Born out of necessity: Ashwoods' axial-flux motor

The Ashwoods group has been supplying hybrid electric vans in the UK since 2010, mainly to the public sector with the help of grants from the Department for Transport’s low-carbon vehicles programme. When it found that commercially-available motors and batteries did not offer the combination of price, performance and durability that it wanted, it started to develop its own.

Last year, it spun out Ashwoods Electric Motors to start manufacturing the motors. At present, it has the capacity to build 50,000 motors a year, but there is room for expansion. As well as using the motors in its own vans, Ashwoods is talking to other vehicle manufacturers about selling the motors to them. It may also licence its technology to other motor-builders.

“Ashwoods has more than five million miles of real-world hybrid vehicle data, collected from some of the UK’s most challenging fleets,” says Beckwith. “This unique experience helped us to create a motor that truly marries the core needs of durability, cost and efficiency.”

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