Ford is looking to find ways for more folks to drive sideways, and we're not talking "Tokyo Drift" variety. The US automaker is working with Germany-based Schaeffler at developing in-wheel motors and is showing off a concept version of a modified Fiesta in Belgium this week.
Ford's eWheelDrive concept car has motors in both rear wheels, which saves space (in the area that used to be the engine compartment), cuts weight and allows for better urban mobility by allowing greater turning flexibility in the wheels themselves. Ford says this sort of in-wheel technology could allow a car the size of today's two-seater to accommodate four people and aims to have two more in-wheel concept cars out by 2015.
Ford joins a growing group of automakers and component companies researching in-wheel motors as a way to cut weight, boost fuel economy and save space. Michigan-based Protean Electric, which last year received $84 million in funding, earlier this month showed off a production version of its in-wheel electric-drive drivetrain system.
Check out Ford's press release below.
Ford and technology partner Schaeffler demonstrate Fiesta-based eWheelDrive research car, powered by independent electric motors in both rear wheels in place of a conventional engine
Space-saving benefits could support development of smaller, more agile cars optimised for urban areas, such as the ability to move sideways to park
Ford will work with Schaeffler and other partners on a follow-up research project, including producing two more drivable vehicles by 2015
LOMMEL, Belgium, April 26, 2013 – Ford Motor Company and Schaeffler today demonstrated the Fiesta-based eWheelDrive car, a driveable research vehicle that could lead to improvements in urban mobility and parking by making possible smaller, more agile cars.
Powered by independent electric motors in each of the rear wheels, eWheelDrive technology offers space under the hood that in conventional cars is occupied by the engine and transmission, and in electric cars by a central motor.
This technology could in the future support the development of a four-person car that only occupies the space of a two-person car today. At the same time, eWheelDrive steering system designs could enable vehicles to move sideways into parking spaces – a potential breakthrough as cities become more populated and congested.
"This is an exciting project to work on with Schaeffler because it potentially opens new options for the development of Zero Emission Vehicles with very efficient packaging and exceptional manoeuvrability," said Pim van der Jagt, Ford's director of Research & Advanced Engineering in Europe. "Looking forward, we have the opportunity to scope out the vehicle's capabilities and how we might overcome some of the challenges presented by implementing the technology."
With in-wheel motors, the components required for drive, deceleration and driver assistance technologies are installed in an integrated wheel hub drive – including the electric motor, braking and cooling systems.
"This highly integrated wheel-hub drive makes it possible to rethink the city car without restrictions; and could be a key factor in new vehicle concepts and automobile platforms in the future," said Peter Gutzmer, chief technical officer, Schaeffler.
Ford joined the project led by Schaeffler, the leading German-based automotive component manufacturer and supplier, to investigate the potential for future vehicles that also could offer zero emissions, and more space for features such as additional protection zones.
In-wheel electric motors are seen by many industry experts as a potentially important future technology enabler for city cars as the world becomes more crowded and urbanized. It is projected that by 2050 the number of people living in cities globally will have increased from 3.4 billion to 6.4 billion*; and the number of cars worldwide will have increased fourfold.
"We face challenges that will have to be addressed through time, thought and investment," said Sheryl Connelly, Ford's global trends and futuring manager. "It is by starting to look at how we might meet those challenges through research projects such as eWheelDrive, that we ensure that we embrace a future of choice and not a future of constraint."
Ford will next partner with Schaeffler, Continental, RWTH Aachen and the University of Applied Sciences, Regensburg, on project MEHREN (Multimotor Electric Vehicle with Highest Room and Energy Efficiency) to develop two new driveable vehicles by 2015. The project aims to increase the integration of in-wheel motors in a car and will look at vehicle dynamics control, braking, stability and the fun-to-drive factor.
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* World Health Organisation and Global Health Observatory
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 175,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.
Ford Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 50 individual markets and employs approximately 47,000 employees at its wholly owned facilities and approximately 69,000 people when joint ventures and unconsolidated businesses are included. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 24 manufacturing facilities (15 wholly owned or consolidated joint venture facilities and nine unconsolidated joint venture facilities). The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.