July 19th, 2019

In-Wheel Hub Motors Hit the Mainstream

Lexus recently hinted at their future plans to use in-wheel hub motors on their production vehicles. Vice president of Lexus, Koji Sato, revealed that the Japanese luxury automaker will soon reveal a master product development plan for future EV platform investments that includes a new and radical way to underpin these vehicles.

We wonder what happens to the grill, once the skateboard platform is adopted? #inthewheels

Integral to Lexus’ master plan is the incorporation of in-wheel electric hub motors, a setup which would enable each of the four wheels to operate independently. While the in-wheel motor is still a concept for Lexus, Sato noted they, “Will continue to pursue this exciting technology”. Lexus is not alone in their pursuit of in-wheel technology as there are a number of other companies working on similar applications.

A new startup, called Lightyear, recently introduced their own concept prototype with in-wheel motors powering their solar car, due to the inherent benefits they bring from an efficiency standpoint.

Lightyear One Solar car prototype concept using in-wheel motors to drive efficiency.

When we read stories like these in the news, everyone seems to make the in-wheel motor technology seem like something that won’t be a reality in production vehicles for a very, very long time. However, being so close to the technology here at Elaphe, we thought we’d share a bit about what in-wheel technology is capable of today — this instant — in real applications.

First things first: How does an in-wheel powertrain integrate into a vehicle?

The answer is that it’s actually quite simple. It integrates by using a unique concept we developed at Elaphe. We build the in-wheel motor with standard vehicle components in mind. This makes the integration modular, and allows the motors to seamlessly fit on both the existing — and the new platforms — using the same passive suspension, braking system and bearing. Like this:

The motor is added to the wheel like the rim and tire. Especially nice if the knuckles are adapted to this, since it does not change the steering geometry, wheel base, kinematics or brake servicing. Thinking about doing a pitstop tire exchange demo:)

And like this, if you look from the rim and tire perspective:


The image below shows how an integration looks on an actual vehicle:

Elaphe in-wheel powertrain performance mule based off a stock Audi R8 platform. Currently does 3.38 sec 0–100 kph (0–62,5 MPH). Improving as we go…

This is not our first rodeo either. We’ve been testing these bad boys on road-legal, production donor vehicles since 2009, and we have recently revealed two of our highest-performance in-wheel powered mules — the most advanced and performant in-wheel cars in existence to date. You might have seen some media featuring this, such as ChargedEVs, DigitalTrends, GreenCarReports, and CleanTechnica.

We are constantly having fun with the vehicles on the track, trying to bring the motors to their breaking point with all sorts of high performance and high stress driving manoeuvres (no luck so far). The following video provides a glimpse at how these vehicles perform in the real world on a high performance test track called ZalaZone. The tests involved hard cornering, heavy braking, aggressive shocks on various terrain and environments:

Here’s what we learned in looking through data from the recent tests:

  • Supercar acceleration 0–100 kph (0–62,5 MPH) with cold tires on cold asphalt: 3.38 seconds. Motors only in the wheel, direct drive (no reduction gear, no transmissions)
  • Skid pad cornering performance, max lateral acceleration measured 1.20g. (For reference, the Ferrari LaFerrari reaches 1.16g, according to the online data)

We will be sure to keep you updated as we manage to dig through the rest of the test information.

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About the The L1500 D-version in-wheel motor:

Elaphe flagship motor was announced this year optimized for low-volume series production and its earlier versions have been tested on several vehicles including passenger cars and off-road-vehicles. Begin of low-volume series production is set in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Read here about the full announcement: https://in-wheel.com/elaphe-announces-production-of-high-performance-inwheel-motor

Images related to the L1500 motor can be found at https://in-wheel.com/media-gallery/all/.