Business and Finance

Electric supercars need to lose weight, power up and cool down By Reuters


© Reuters. Two electrical automobiles are parked at YASA headquarters and manufacturing facility in Oxford, Britain, August 24, 2021. Picture taken August 24, 2021. REUTERS/May James


By Nick Carey and Giulio Piovaccari

OXFORD (Reuters) – Speed has all the time been paramount for supercar makers, and now they’re within the race of their lives to go electrical earlier than local weather coverage cuts their combustion engines.

That’s why the likes of Ferrari (NYSE:) and Mercedes-Benz are turning to startups comparable to Oxford-based electrical motor firm YASA for experience and know-how to remedy the distinctive challenges of electrifying the highest-performance automobiles.

Batteries are immensely heavy and electrical motors overheat if pushed too laborious – huge issues for a distinct segment trade that expenses a whole bunch of 1000’s of {dollars} for light-weight automobiles able to screaming spherical 10 laps of a observe at full throttle.

This yr Daimler (OTC:) purchased YASA, which has developed an “axial flux” high-performance electrical motor that weighs 23 kg (50.7 lb), a fraction of a near-300 kg V12 engine in a Ferrari, and is concerning the dimension and form of a steering wheel.

YASA already makes motors for Ferrari, Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg, plus an unnamed British supercar firm. It will now provide the high-performance AMG model at Daimler, which is able to quickly assume the identify of its automotive enterprise Mercedes-Benz.

Based only a few miles from YASA, Saietta has developed a variety of water-cooled axial flux motors. The firm is gearing up to produce motors for the huge Asian bike market, however advised Reuters it had created a bigger prototype and was in talks with one hypercar maker, and that two others had expressed curiosity.

“These manufacturers know combustion engines forwards, backwards and inside out,” mentioned Saietta Chief Commercial Officer Graham (NYSE:) Lenden. “But they don’t know electric powertrains and what they’re looking for is someone to hold their hand.”

Yet that is uncharted territory, with no clear street map to electrical for high-performance automobiles but. Supercar makers could have to make investments billions of {dollars} to survive the disappearance of combustion engines, with no assure that the applied sciences they undertake will repay in the long run.


Supercars and the highest-end hypercars – each sportscars that verge on skilled racing stage efficiency – are a extremely worthwhile, capital intensive area of interest marketplace for automakers.

Consultancy AlixPartners and knowledge agency IHS Markit estimate greater than 152,000 “luxury” and “super luxury” sportscars ranging in value from 100,000 to 10 million kilos ($137,000-13.7 million) shall be offered globally in 2021, with the market anticipated to rise practically 50% to 223,000 automobiles in 2026.

YASA founder Woolmer mentioned, although, that his firm’s long-term transient from Daimler was to carry the prices down in future iterations of its motor so the German carmaker can use them throughout its whole automotive vary because it shifts to electrical.

“Automotive technology doesn’t scale to volume overnight, you tend to start with the premium niche sectors,” Woolmer says.

Makers of high-performance electrical automobiles will finally have to discover methods to develop lighter, extra highly effective batteries. But as right this moment’s battery know-how can’t compete with the sustained power of a petroleum engine, they’re additionally rethinking the whole lot from electrical motors to automotive physique supplies.

Axial flux electrical motors are flat, spherical units – dubbed “pancakes” – which are lighter and extra environment friendly than standard cylindrical “radial flux” motors, or “sausages.”

YASA’s motor is oil cooled, so won’t ever overheat and is much extra environment friendly than a standard motor, mentioned Tim Woolmer, who developed the gadget as a part of his doctorate on the University of Oxford and then based the corporate in 2009.

Because the motor is extra environment friendly, it may lengthen the vary of an electrical automobile up to 7%, or as a result of it makes use of much less power it permits carmakers to take out a number of the heavy batteries and scale back their automobile’s weight by to 10%, he added.

YASA has a small facility at its Oxford headquarters the place it makes motors for Ferrari’s SF90 Stradale hybrid and 296 GTB hybrid fashions, and take a look at motors for AMG. Daimler is learning how to scale up that manufacturing at its personal factories.

YASA’s CEO Chris Harris mentioned its acquisition by the German large had not ended its work with shoppers like Ferrari.

“They want us to continue working with our supercar customers because that’s the leading edge,” he added. “That technology when it matures cascades down.”

Ferrari’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Leiters described the YASA motor in its hybrid fashions as an “automotive first”, including that the Italian sportscar maker would lean on the technical experience of suppliers in its quest to go electrical.


Car firms are additionally trying past motors of their weight-loss plans.

Mate Rimac, CEO of Croatian electrical hypercar maker Rimac, mentioned the chassis and the physique of its C-Two mannequin had been each product of carbon fibre, and that batteries fashioned a part of the automotive’s construction to save weight.

The firm, which is forming content=To%20bepercent20setpercent20uppercent20in,willpercent20alsopercent20leadpercent20thepercent20JV a three way partnership with Volkswagen (DE:)’s luxurious sportscar unit Porsche that may embody VW’s Bugatti model, additionally makes use of “torque vectoring” to increase efficiency – motors within the wheels to assist take corners.

British sportscar maker Lotus has developed a brand new electrical platform utilizing mild aluminium alloys that cuts the automobile’s structural weight 37% and will begin producing its first fully-electric sports activities automotive in 2026.

Owned by China’s Geely and Malaysia’s Etika Automotive, Lotus additionally operates as an auto provider and engineer to different carmakers. The firm is in superior talks to provide the platform to one other carmaker and has acquired expressions of curiosity from a number of others, managing director Matt Windle mentioned.

“With the cost and speed of electrification, collaboration is the way to go,” Windle mentioned.

Chinese automaker FAW has teamed up with U.S.-based engineering and design agency Silk EV to kind the Silk-FAW enterprise, which plans to construct electrical sportscars in Italy.

It is utilizing carbon-fibre parts for the automobile chassis and trying to a high-revolution motor utilizing copper-wiring know-how from the aerospace sector to lower the motor’s weight by 20%, although it is usually exploring different choices.

“Weight saving is even more important than a higher level of power,” mentioned Roberto Fedeli, Silk-FAW vice chairman for innovation and know-how.

Cutting weight and utilizing extra environment friendly motors could also be sufficient for many rich sportscar patrons who use their automobiles for recreation or to commute, and are unlikely to need to execute a number of high-speed laps round a race observe.

Those who do could possibly be in for a protracted wait.

“Unless batteries go through a massive revolution, you’re never going to carry the amount of energy that a fuel tank will carry,” mentioned YASA founder Woolmer.

“For longer-form racing, it’s going to be a while.”

($1 = 0.7311 kilos)

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