A German company Schaeffler Technologies which majors in manufacturing of bearings has teamed up with American car major Ford to develop a highly integrated wheel hub drive system, a propulsion system with a difference. The hub drive houses an electric motor in the hub of the wheel and drives it directly. The project undertaken by Schaeffler was conducted on the Ford Fiesta hatchback making it a rear-wheel e-WheelDrive Fiesta. The hatchback was installed with two hub drives, one in each wheel at the rear. The hub contains all drive-related systems like the motor, brakes, power electronics, cooling and controlling, all integrated inside the wheel rim.
The two electric motors deliver a combined power output of about 90 BHP and 700 Nm of torque. The hub drive system is liquid-cooled and weighs about 53 kgs which is not significantly high as compared to the 45 kgs of a conventional drive system. The integrated hub drive also calls for a lot space saving inside the cabin ultimately benefitting passenger space, space for luggage, battery and other electronics. This system is also versatile enough for any type of vehicle from the 16-inch wheels of the Fiesta to any vehicle form below or above it.
Ford has conducted cold weather test-drives of the e-WheelDrive Fiesta and claim that it scores very well in terms of driving dynamics, maneuverability and safety. Infact, the comfort and safety levels have remained unchanged compared to the conventional vehicle inspite of the increased unsprung weight. The electric wheel hub drive seem to be the in-thing for future electric cars, even 4WD electric or hybrid’s or sportscars. However, this kind of a system was used in the early 1900’s by Ferdinand Porsche on the Lohner-Porsche automobile which featured front-wheel drive electric wheel hub motors.