Motor, other components, in wheels may shape future of car industry

Motor, other components, in wheels may shape future of car industry

A Tel Aviv-based startup has emerged from stealth and they are spelling out their concept for motors in wheels for engines in electric cars. Tech-watching headlines are calling it a reinvention of wheels but it is essentially a reinvention of the car.

Don't say it never entered anyone's head before this. Try year 1900. The Economist reminded readers that Ferdinand Porsche at the Paris World Fair had a car driven by a pair of electric motors incorporated into the front wheels.

In 2019, the Ree company is taking this to another level. Roadshow: "Ree's idea to put all the drive components inside the isn't necessarily a new idea, but it's going further by including not only the motor inside the wheel but the steering, suspension, drivetrain, sensing, brakes, thermal systems and electronic components as well."

A video shows the motor-in-wheels prototype. Take care not to blink or you miss half the video, which shows a skateboard type of object.

New Atlas said this was the kind of platform that could be used for anything: a delivery van, high-performance off-road vehicle.

Roadshow similarly remarked that "you could conceivably whack any body you like on top of it, depending on your need." The vehicle architecture, significantly simplified, had drive and suspension systems inside its wheels, along with a flat floor made up of a structural battery pack.

Long and short, motor, steering, suspension, drivetrain, sensors, brakes, thermal systems and electronics were in the wheels.

Tami Hood in Hydrogen Fuel News noted in what ways this concept would impact future designs:

The drive components being contained inside the wheels "would eliminate the bulky drive unit that's sitting between the front or rear wheels, providing the benefit of having a totally flat floor for more passenger and cargo space in a given application."

The company CEO, Daniel Barel, had an interview with Interesting Engineering where he relayed his views on their concept vis a vis existing industry concepts. He said the "entire automotive industry is changing, but the vehicle is still being built on 100-year-old concepts."

Fabienne Lang in Interesting Engineering :

"REE's universal platform will be able to replace the multiple ones that OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are creating and using—and save the industry billions of dollars. Typically, the validation and creation of one platform costs manufacturers $20 billion, so with simply one platform being used in the future, costs will drastically drop." In addition, "safety, performance, and efficiency will be improved. Sounds like a no-brainer."

Roadshow's Kyle Hyatt pointed to some interesting advantages about their idea: (1) the advantage of having a completely flat floor for more passenger and cargo space in a given application and (2) individual motors in each wheel were "opening the door for really advanced torque vectoring, which would—in theory, at least—improve both safety and handling."

The company is referred to as a startup but, actually, as Loz Blain reported in New Atlas, for the last six or so years, CEO Barel and the team were "in stealth mode working on a completely new approach to the entire automotive segment."

Barel talked to Blain about the team's four "pillars" underlying the architecture: modularity, tiny footprint, energy efficiency (to max the range possible from a battery charge); and "lightweighting."

Vehicle designers might even think about a decision to rearrange the seats or even use new body shapes, said electrive.com.

Could we be looking at a complete disruption of the auto industry? Barel did not ignore the economic driver in talking to Blain. "The single biggest expenditure for an OEM auto manufacturer is the platform, developing and validating it. It costs billions, it takes years, and each OEM has between two and six platforms at any given moment, and two or three in development. We went in and said 'what if you might need only one? That might be worth something.'"

What's next? Barel said he expected the first Ree-architecture vehicles to hit the market around 2023, according to New Atlas.

The company's history can be traced to SoftWheel, which carries some news items about their new concept.

According to a news release in September last year, SoftWheel's focus was described as developing "cutting edge systems for the , enabling the fusion of the drivetrain, suspension, e-motor, steering, and brakes into the vehicle's wheel. Its enables significant reduction in space, weight, and energy consumption of vehicle platforms for EV, hybrid, and autonomous vehicles."

Reports, meanwhile, said the company was talking with a number of OEMs. As for press reactions, the response to the Ree tech was basically sounds-interesting-let's-wait-and-see.

New Atlas: We look forward to learning more about REE's potentially disruptive auto architecture as it develops and moves toward the market. At this stage we've only seen a very short video of one of the prototypes...We have requested more information, diagrams and photos from REE and hope to bring them to you soon."


Explore further

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More information: ree.auto/

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Jul 13, 2019
Bit late for us, but this clear floor, 'low-boy' style would be an excellent basis for kerb-side wheelchair accessibility.

Such low rear flat-bed access would be nice, too.

Provided purblind designers don't make taxi/cab passenger / tailgate doors impracticably narrow and the roof-line crazy-low...
;-)

Jul 13, 2019
This could make repairs lots easier but lots more expensive... but then economies of scale and standardization might drive the cost of large complex parts way down. If owners could swap out whole wheel assemblies in their driveways then what would mechanics have left to do? Even if weight were a factor, the equivalent of a tire shop could do the job.

Jul 13, 2019
advanced torque vectoring, which would—in theory, at least—improve both safety and handling.


Adding mass to the wheel reduces both safety and handling, because heavier wheels make for a harder ride and the suspension has a harder time keeping the wheel on the road instead of bouncing everywhere. This has been the first point where all the in-wheel motor designs so far have failed.

The second point where they fail is dust and water ingress, and damage from use and mishandling. These things are supposed to last for 20 years and they take a lot of abuse, and they have parts (brake pads/discs) that need to be replaced periodically. You're also supposed to replace the wheel after so many years, so the motor can't be an integral part of the wheel unless you want to replace the motor with the wheel which is incredibly wasteful and costly to the owner.

It's a really bad idea in terms of cost, durability and maintainability.

Jul 13, 2019
This could make repairs lots easier


Not really. It makes repairs infeasible because you have to remove the wheel-motor unit and disassemble it in order to change the brake pads, or to change the tires. Need to swap out wheel bearings? Disassemble the entire unit... it makes simple repair jobs very much harder and more expensive.

In other words, you HAVE to make it cheaper to replace the entire unit every time you need to fix anything. Otherwise the idea is just dumb.

Jul 13, 2019
If they want to make mountains of cash, all they have to do is build kits that take out an axle of popular commercial vehicles, and replace it so it has regenerative braking and electric assist with recovered energy. Soooo much gas is lost to stop and go for all vehicles, and braking on hills for heavy vehicles like semis.

Jul 13, 2019
Not really
Take Tesla for instance

"Edmunds estimates the 5 year cost of maintenance of a Honda Accord (which is a very reliable car) to be $3,974. This suggests the Model 3 maintenance costs are 75% lower over 5 years.

"Big costs that a gas car will have in 5 years that EVs don't have are 1 or 2 brake jobs, many oil and filter changes, accessory belt replacement, and engine air filter and fuel filter changes. If you keep your car past 5 years, with a gasoline car you can count on some big repairs like timing belts, fuel system treatments, replacing fuel injectors, spark plugs and wires, water pumps, alternators, starter motors, catalytic converters, mufflers, engine mounts, oxygen sensors, and head gaskets to solve oil leaks. I've had all of those repairs on my gas cars and I never keep them past 150,000 miles, and those repairs average a couple thousand dollars a year. EVs don't have any of those parts, so they can't break."

Jul 13, 2019
"Tesla model S has fewer than 20 moving parts excluding things like windows and climate control... average family sedan has over 10k moving parts in the powertrain alone."
https://www.quora...ce-costs
(Can't copy/paste from quora but lots of good info)

-with little standardization across models and years. Labor is often the most expensive item on the bill.

-Things like regenerative brakes mean pads may never need changing.

Robotics, 3D printing will make large, complex assys cheaper and cheaper. Eventually disposable cars?

Re the above design
"this was the kind of platform that could be used for anything: a delivery van, high-performance off-road vehicle"

-Standardization will crash component prices. How many options on teslas? How many on Ford products?
Cont>

Jul 13, 2019
I'm going thru pain with a Chrysler vehicle with 80k miles. Tranny was undersized and needs replacing but stealership only did torque convertor (warranty almost up!!); thermostat cracked due to bad design; 2 sets pads/rotors; backup camera shot and hard to get to; radiator cracked due to bad design; 3 recalls; 1 door took 2 returns to fix; still pulls to the right after 3 alignments; what next?

With many parts, bad design and cut corners multiply. Too many chances for error. All require $150/hr tech labor. A modular wheel package swap is like an engine/tranny/differential swap on a gas car w/o the one week downtime.

It's like a phone or laptop. You dont get a new CPU any more. You get a new computer.

Jul 13, 2019
I've known this concept for years as the "skateboard chassis". Batteries/fuel cells and electronics would be in the floor. Bodies could be swapped. This one is ambitious, though, putting so much in the wheels. I've considered this to be a great concept, but I agree about the problems of mass and reliability. Best might be to put the motors just inside of the wheel wells, isolated from vibrations and the environment by a short axle.

Jul 13, 2019
It has compelling features and on a smooth controlled surface would be good, but how about normal driving conditions. Its a lot of vibration and momentum change that the motors and electronics undergo, sited in the hubs...

Jul 14, 2019
All Dandy, until you hit that One Gorilla Pothole and everything inside gets cracked or crooked.

Jul 14, 2019
Modern cars require in excess of 160hp

Take a 160hp Volkswagen Tiguan
NancyCohen> Long and short, motor, steering, suspension, drivetrain, sensors, brakes, thermal systems and electronics were in the wheels

This would entail
Installing a 40hp electric motor in each wheel
According to Volkswagen dealership
It is not possible to fit a 40hp motor in a single wheel
For the motor is to large
And there is this cooling problem in a confined space
For it is more efficient to have 2x 80hp motors
With shaft drives to the front 80hp motor
And
Shaft drives to the rear 80h motor
For this an end to this dream

Jul 14, 2019
Otto you have to factor in battery replacement and depreciation to get a true cost of ownership.

Jul 15, 2019
The idea isn't really new (and has already been implemented by others: e.g. the MEB platform by Volkswagen which will be used in anything from SEATs to Skodas to Audis and, of course, VW)

The problem is that this may only work for a car group (like Volkswagen) who have many offerings in the *same* segment (e.g. compact cars) from a set of different brands they own.

A single car maker will not need this as they only have one offering per market segment - and you need a redesign for each different market segment.

The wheel motor design may also not be the best, as it puts a lot of undampened mass (and hence wear) on the tires.

Jul 15, 2019
For years this inertial wheel mass has turned to aluminium to save weight

The mass of a 40hp electric motor and brake disk on each wheel
antialias_physorg> The wheel motor design may also not be the best, as it puts a lot of undampened mass (and hence wear) on the tires

Well spotted, antialias_physorg
This increases the steering mass
Tyre wear
Suspension stability
Traction control
Putting a 40hp induction motor in each wheel is fraught with problems
For induction motors are incredibly heavy
To give an idea of induction motors weight
A 40hp electric motor can weigh up to 400lbs

p.s. as this weight can be dramatically reduced, it gives an idea as to the weight of electric induction motors, if this 40hp motors weight is reduced to 100lbs, 100lbs is still far too heavy to put in inside a car wheel

Jul 15, 2019
The only place where I don't see the mass being an issue is in city cars. But for city cars there's no point in having four motors.

In any case I think (electric) city cars is a dying breed (i.e. cars with very small batteries and low speeds, only). People want the ability to go long distances even if they may never need to (just like people buy off-road capable SUVs but never go off-road), so the class of cars I see in teh future are in the 75-100kWh bracket...and for those you probably don't want the motors in the wheels.

Jul 15, 2019
This Tel Aviv Company
antialias_physorg> The only place where I don't see the mass being an issue is in city cars. But for city cars there's no point in having four motors.

In any case I think (electric) city cars is a dying breed (i.e. cars with very small batteries and low speeds, only)

Would have a better product
If it turned this platform in to a skate board for the beach
Then all the worlds their oyster

Jul 15, 2019
Electric cars need batteries

Having just looked at this video
Of this four wheeled skate board
Where does this 1000lb battery go?
May be like the motors, the batteries are in the wheels!

Jul 15, 2019
AAP
The wheel motor design may also not be the best, as it puts a lot of undampened mass (and hence wear) on the tires.

We drive 60k miles per year for our business. And need new shocks about every year.
These wheels wouldn't last 10k miles on US highways...
I'd be way happier with a hovercraft...

Jul 16, 2019
Two words - unsprung weight

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