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Futuristic Ford Fiesta sports in-wheel electric motors

Research vehicle shows how space could be saved under the hood to build smaller, more agile cars that could even steer sideways.

By Douglas Newcomb Apr 30, 2013 5:30AM

Ford Fiesta eWheelDrive prototype. Photo by Ford.According to the World Health Organization, by 2050 the number of people living in cities around the globe will increase from 3.4 billion today to 6.4 billion, while the number of cars worldwide will rise fourfold during the same time.

Ford’s answer to a crowded inner-city future is a Fiesta-based research vehicle with an electric motor mounted to each rear wheel, in place of a conventional engine and drivetrain, that saves space and makes the car easier to park.

Ford said that the research vehicle, built alongside German automotive component manufacturer and supplier Schaeffler, "could lead to improvements in urban mobility and parking by making possible smaller, more agile cars." And it added that the space-saving prototype technology could someday allow Ford to build a four-person car that only occupies the space of a two-person car of today.

Dubbed "eWheelDrive," the technology uses independent electric motors installed inside the rear wheel hubs to drive and decelerate the vehicle and even manage driver assist systems. This frees space under the hood where the engine and transmission are usually housed in a conventional car, or a central motor in an electric car.

With this arrangement, the steering system could also potentially allow the tires to rotate 90 degrees, effectively allowing the car to move sideways into parking spaces in more populated and congested cities.

"This highly integrated wheel-hub drive makes it possible to rethink the city car without restrictions,” said Peter Gutzmer, Schaeffler’s chief technical officer in a statement, "and could be a key factor in new vehicle concepts and automobile platforms in the future."

Ford said in-wheel electric motors are considered by transportation experts to be a potentially important technology for future generations of "city cars" as the world population becomes more urbanized.

Protean Electric, a Michigan-based engineering company, has  a Ford Focus equipped with its own in-wheel electric motors and is developing an entirely new brake disc to compensate for the motor's complete takeover of available wheel space. But while experts are considering the technology as an easier "bolt-on" solution than traditional electric powertrains, the inherent weight and its effects on ride quality, wheel size and braking reliability remain a challenge.

Next, Ford and Schaffler will join with automotive supplier Continental, RWTH Aachen University and Regensburg University of Applied Sciences on project MEHREN (Multimotor Electric Vehicle with Highest Room and Energy Efficiency) to develop two new road-ready vehicles by 2015.

Ford Fiesta eWheelDrive prototype. Photo by Ford.[Source: Ford]

Apr 30, 2013 9:18AM
I'd rather have Ford explain why it sells a 70 mpg car in Europe, that is built in the USA, but we can't buy the damn thing...
Apr 30, 2013 9:25AM
The scary part is the doubling of world population in less than forty years.
Apr 30, 2013 9:18AM
Kind of like what diesel electric locomotives use, just a lot smaller.
Apr 30, 2013 9:10AM
Apr 30, 2013 9:17AM
Great idea! put the power where it's the wheels. This eliminates the power loss from the drivetrain, and frees up space where the engine used to be.
Apr 30, 2013 9:31AM
Why does Ford have only huge gas guzzling trucks in the US and smaller  more efficient trucks everywhere else in the world.  Anyway  when there are 6.5 billion people on the planet the issue won't be what wheels people drive but lack of food and water !
Apr 30, 2013 9:33AM
Allison Transmission in Indianapolis build a small bus using this idea about 15 years ago.  Don't know what has happened since then but I was lucky enough to get a ride in it back then...
Apr 30, 2013 9:23AM
i did it on aa old pinto 40 years ago messing with it, wanted to also use a  bicycle light charger to  chargethe batteries as it  drove,but i never  got it to work right, back then? the batteries weighed more than the car, i used 4 electric  motors, one on each wheel
Apr 30, 2013 9:24AM
Global talent. Take the best the world has to offer and incorporate it into your product. Nothing wrong with that.
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