The finalization of RefreeDrive Project, led by Cidaut, has confirmed that it is possible to manufacture electric motors not only free of rare earths but also avoiding the use of critical materials coming from outside the European borders. The challenge was really ambitious, because the performance objective of the motors was to overcome the figures of a well-known American manufacturer. The ambition was also related to the number of motors to be developed because two technologies have been considered (induction motor and synchronous reluctance motor), two power levels (75kW and 200kW) and two manufacturing processes for each of the technologies.
The eight motors manufactured in the project have been tested stand-alone in a motor test bench to confirm the performance. Two of the solutions have been integrated with the power electronics and the cooling system and have been tested in a specific test bench. And finally, the pure reluctance motor, the power electronics and the rest of auxiliary systems have been integrated into a vehicle to perform acceleration, consumption, dynamic, and range tests.
This development has been made in the frame of the European Project ReFreeDrive, a three years European Project that has recently reached his end. The research leading to this result has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 Programme under Grant Agreement nº 770143.
March 2021 saw the end of ReFreeDrive project. In the last months of the project all the efforts have been devoted to finishing the manufacturing of the induction and synchronous reluctance motors for both power ranges (75kW and 200kW) and testing them. The goal was to evaluate their performance and validate their suitability to be successfully introduced in the market after the project. The testing stage had three different steps with an increasing level of systems integration, starting from the motor and the power electronics alone, followed by subsequent systems integration or replication (pedal, gearbox, etc.) and ending with the full integration in a commercial van. Cidaut Foundation has been in charge of the powertrain integration activities, in which we employed real world-based driving scenarios to assess and refine the response of the motor prior to its installation in a van.
Finally, as last event of the project, all three EU-funded GV04 projects (ReFreeDrive, modulED and Drivemode) will celebrate a public online workshop on the 16th April, 10:00-12:30 CET. The workshop, titled “Next generation electric drivetrains for fully electric vehicles” will serve as a platform to share with all relevant stakeholders as well as the general public interested in the project how each project has addressed the challenges they aimed to solve, which solutions they have proposed to overcome them and, last but not least, which results they have obtained compared with the KPIs set at the proposal stage. If you would like to attend the project, you can sign up for FREE on the following link: https://copperalliance.zoom.us/webinar/register/7716150099629/WN_aMcHAdDLQ2-Ao3q0cyMUfw
Since the last update, ReFreeDrive project has attended several international events for disseminating the progress and the main outcomes of the project so far. Recently, on the 1st December, ReFreeDrive participated in H2020RTR Conference, the 4th European-wide conference dedicated to the presentation of results from road transport research in H2020 funded projects. Together with the other two EU projects from the GV-04 cluster (ModulED and DRIVEMODE), ReFreeDrive provided an insightful view of how the European R&D is allowing taking the lead in the electric powertrain field, benefiting the environment, the economy and the society overall.
Besides, we are glad to announce the celebration of the third webinar of the ReFreeDrive’s webinar series the next 16th December, 11:00AM CET. This time, three members of the Consortium will explain some interesting manufacturing facts for advanced induction motors: hairpin stator winding (Mario Vetuschi, Tecnomatic), die-cast copper rotor with zero porosity (David Schmitz, Breuckmann e-mobility) and fabricated copper rotor production process (Denise Willems, Aurubis). You can join us on the following registration link.
Despite all limitations derived from the lockdowns and restrictions imposed after the outbreak of Covid-19 in Europe, ReFreeDrive Consortium has managed to deal with the situation and go ahead with the project activities in these last months. A six months extension has been agreed with the CE to compensate the unexpected delays, therefore the project will now end in March 2021.
After the comeback to the industrial activity was allowed, the manufacturing and testing of the prototypes was resumed. At this point, both permanent magnets assisted and pure synchronous reluctance motors for 75kW and 200kW applications have been delivered and tested at IFPEN facilities. Induction motors are expected to be fully assembled in the following weeks. Powertrain integration activities are now beginning at CIDAUT, and preliminary in-vehicle integration tasks (such as installing cooling circuits and the battery pack) have already started at PRIVÉ.
Several dissemination activities have been organized in the last months to maintain audience engagement. Especially relevant have been the two ReFreeDrive webinars aiming to share the project scope, objectives and achievements with technical and non-technical audiences. Up to now, the topics covered in the webinars have been “Rare earth-free motor designs for e-mobility” and “Control strategies and electric drive design of induction and synchronous reluctance motors for e-mobility”. Moreover, ReFreeDrive participated with all other GV04 H2020 EU-projects (DRIVEMODE, MODULED) in a webinar titled “Next generation electric drivetrains for fully electric vehicles, focusing on high efficiency and low cost”, in the context of the European Mobility Week, which took place from 16th to 22th September 2020.
Last, but not least, on 1st October the 36-months General Assembly meeting was celebrated as an online meeting. There, the project progress was evaluated and all the ongoing activities monitored, and the activities for the last months of the project were scheduled to ensure that all tasks end successfully in time.
Last March, ReFreeDrive Consortium should have celebrated the 30-months General Assembly meeting at IFPEN premises (Paris, France). Unfortunately, the strike of coronavirus pandemic in Europe was at its peak by those dates, which forced serious travel restrictions and made impossible to celebrate a face-to-face meeting as originally planned. Instead, a virtual General Assembly meeting was carried out on 17th March.
This time, the meeting had two main aims. Firstly, to evaluate the impact of the pandemic on each of the partners’ activities and try to figure out to which extent ReFreeDrive’s ongoing project tasks would be affected. And secondly, to monitor and share the results of the tasks carried out in the previous months.
At this point, the e-drive design is finished, including not only the motors, but also the power electronics and its conceptual in-vehicle integration, for both 75 kW and 200 kW applications. Now the focus is on manufacturing and testing activities. Permanent magnet-assisted synchronous reluctance prototypes have been already successfully manufactured, and now we are waiting for the re-opening of experimental facilities to begin testing activities. For the other cases (pure synchronous reluctance motor, die-cast induction motor and fabricated induction motor) some delays will be experienced, so we will work hard in the upcoming months to minimize their impact on the project development. Besides, all components required for the powertrain testing and integration such as gearbox and battery pack have been selected.
Therefore, in the following months it is planned to finalize the manufacturing of the pending prototypes, as well as its testing. Then it will be time to integrate them in the target vehicles and demonstrate its operation in a real environment.