Ford’s eWheelDrive projects designs for future urban cars

It’s predicted that by the year 2050 there will be 9.3 billion people on Earth and 6.4 billion of them will be living in cities. There could also be four times as many cars on the roads as today, leading to an incredible degree of urban congestion and gridlock. That’s the impetus behind Ford and technology partner Schaeffler’s eWheelDrive electric research car, that moves the motor to the wheel hubs.

Demonstrated last Friday at Lommel, Belgium, the eWheelDrive is under development by Ford and project leader Schaeffler, a German automotive component manufacturer and supplier. The aim of the project is to investigate the potential for smaller, more agile cars better suited to crowded urban environments.

The eWheelDrive doesn’t look very revolutionary. It’s based on that most conventional of cars, the Ford Fiesta, but the real secret isn’t under the bonnet because there’s nothing there except the battery. Instead, the engine has given way to two electric motors mounted in the hubs of the rear wheels along with the braking and cooling systems.

This setup also isn’t entirely new, but what is new is the fact that the eWheelDrive is not intended to make it more sporty or just greener, but as a way of developing car technologies for increasingly crowded city streets. The design frees up space under the bonnet that is normally occupied by a conventional engine or a central electric motor, opening the door for smaller, more agile cars that are more able to negotiate the warrens of London or Hong Kong…

The aim of the project will be to increase the integration of in-wheel motors in a car, as well as studying vehicle dynamics control, braking, stability and the ”fun-to-drive” factor. The goal will be to solve problems caused by heavier wheels, improve brakes, reduce noise and vibration, improve the suspension, and ensure that the motors deliver enough torque.

Poisonally, I have little concern about power-to-weight ratios. The project cars should be miniature bullet trains. Vehicles with electric drive motors as part of the wheel assembly aren’t new; but, almost never have they been used with wheels sprung and suspended for automotive use. The ratio of sprung-to-unsprung weight can make for comfort and handling problems.

Electricity is still my favorite long-term power source. Hopefully, before I get too old to enjoy driving there will be vehicles I can afford for everyday use on my old geezer budget.

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