University of Windsor lands $4.3M for electric motor research

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


The University of Windsor has received $4.3-million in federal government and private industry funding with the aim of producing a next generation electric motor for the auto industry by 2025.

The university received $1.9 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) with private industry partners Ford Motor Co., Nemak Corp. and D&V Electronics contributing $2.4 million.

“The aim is to develop a motor that’s less costly, lighter, more efficient with higher performance and durability,” said Windsor electrical engineering professor Narayan Kar, who heads the school’s Centre for Hybrid Automotive Research and Green Energy.

“Our initial prototype will have to be ready for May 2023. By 2025 the next generation of motor will be ready.

“I’m very confident, given our track record, we’ll be able to do that.”

Kar said ‘time is not on our side’ with technology evolving so rapidly.

He said that has resulted in a need for a more multi-disciplined approach drawing in professors and students from a variety of faculties that made the joint application from Windsor and its private sector partners appealing to the federal government.

Six Windsor researchers will contribute to the project, including Xueyuan Nie, Henry Hu, and Ofelia Jianu from the Department of Mechanical, Automotive and Materials Engineering, dean Mehrdad Saif from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Nick Vukotic from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Ziad Kobti, director of the School of Computer Science.

There will also be 40 graduate and post-doctoral students involved in the programme.

“As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized electrical engineering isn’t even half of what you need to develop an electrical engine,” Kar said. “That’s why the need for expertise from so many areas.”

Kar said Nemak will cast the components using its new high-strength, electrically conductive aluminum alloy while D&V Electronics will use its advanced testing technologies to assess the new motors.

“D&V’s test equipment and over 10 years of testing electric vehicle propulsion knowledge, competence and experience will allow for quick, effective, and comprehensive evaluation,” said D&V engineering manager Will Clandfield in a statement.

Ford Motor Co., a longtime partner with the university, will provide the over-arching parameters and requirements needed by a manufacturer.

“We can use Ford’s engine facilities in Windsor for testing and building the engines,” Kar said. “Once the engine is ready, Ford will be instrumental in taking it to the vehicle level.”

The focus of the group’s research will be on creating an improved electric induction motor.

Induction motors use electricity to create the magnetic currents that cause the rotor to spin while permanent magnet engines use naturally magnetic materials to create those forces.

“Induction motors are lighter and less costly than permanent magnet motors,” Kar said. “They’re also extremely durable.

“The breakthrough we need to make is on the efficiency side. We’re trying to create an induction motor that’s more efficient and has higher performance.”

With a main motor attached to the rear axle and a smaller motor attached to the front axle, a reduction in weight and cost will have a doubly beneficial impact.

With the University of Windsor having established itself among the leaders in the nation in electrical automotive engine research and lightweight materials, Kar said the benefits to the community are also potentially substantial.

“We’ll be using Windsor facilities and manufacturers in our research and that will be an immediate benefit,” Kar said.

“If we’re successful, as we have been in our past collaborations, we already have Ford with engine manufacturing facilities in the city that would aid our labour force.

“We could benefit significantly from this programme.”