ReFreeDrive, developing new electric motor technologies

ReFreeDrive is our most recently approved H2020 project. With the title “Rare earth free e-Drives featuring low cost manufacturing”, ReFreeDrive is focused on developing rare earth‐free traction technologies beyond their current state-of‐art, with a strong focus on industrial feasibility for mass production, targeting lower costs with higher specific torque and power density. The project was kicked off last 17th and 18th of October.


ReFreeDrive joins 13 partners, 9 of them industrial partners, from 6 different European Countries. Coordinated by CIDAUT, the Consortium includes an OEM (Jaguar Land Rover), an applied research center focused on materials research (CSM), a Tier1 system integrator (Privé), motor designers for both the electric machines and the power electronics (Motor Design Limited, Univesity of L’Aquila, IFP Energies Nouvelles), manufacturers (Breuckmann, Aurubis, Tecnomatic, Mavel Powertrain, R13 Technology) and an association (European Copper Institute).

The project will study and develop simultaneously two solutions for the power traction system of electrical vehicles. Both solutions are brushless AC electrical machines: induction machine with fabricated and copper die-cast rotor (IM) and synchronous reluctance (SynRel) machine. Through their configurations these machines not only are rare-earth magnet free, but also share common features that can be exploited during the design step, as well in the manufacturing process. These common features lead to a complex synergy between the two technologies, which justify the development of different topologies of electric machines in just one project.

The design of the ReFreeDrive motors will take as a premise the reduction of use of materials, as more than half of the final price is formed by raw materials cost. Also, a minimization of manufacturing costs will be ensured by an early involvement of manufacturers, from the design stage. ReFreeDrive motor topologies have good room for cost reduction by off-setting permanent magnet use.

Beyond the motor design, ReFreeDrive also consider an integrated design of the power train that allows the optimization of the electric connections, the cooling systems and the housing.

Power electronics development will be mainly focused on the introduction of innovative Wide Bandgap power switch to allow high frequency operation and reduce cost associated with passive components. That advance allow achieving a 50% increase in the power density of motor power electronics and a 50% reduction in losses

ReFreeDrive proposes a scalable design that will be tested for two power range applications (75kW and 200kW). In this case, the market that this project addresses covers all the possible option of fully electric vehicles and hybrids.