Mahle Prepares for First Passenger Car E-Motor Application

A close-up view of Mahle electric drive motors produced at the company's plant in Sempeter, Slovenia. (Mahle)

With a portfolio that includes traction drive motors for 2- and 4-wheel drive off-road vehicles, Mahle will soon add 48-volt drive motors for light-duty passenger electric vehicles.

This Mahle electric motor powers the two-seat Renault Twizy. Mahle's 12 kW (16 hp) drive motor and lithium-ion battery system enables the vehicle to achieve a speed of 80 km/h (49.7 mph) and a range of 100 km (162 miles). Twizy was the top-selling plug-in electric vehicle sold in Europe during 2012. (Mahle)

“The technology is really not drastically different than some of the traction drive motors that we have in the marketplace today for other industries,” JD Kehoe, Mahle’s director of Product Development Filtration and Engine Peripherals for Mahle Filter Systems North America, said in a recent interview with Automotive Engineering.

This Textron-produced Prowler EV features a Mahle electric AWD traction drive system. The vehicle is driven by two Mahle 72-volt/3-phase AC traction motors fitted to the front and rear transaxles. (Thom Cannell)

Mahle’s first electric motor for a light-duty passenger vehicle application is coming in the 2020/2021 timeframe, said Kehoe, adding that the company’s electric motors also will be used on hybrid-electric vehicles.

“Vehicle manufacturers need larger, more-powerful, highly-efficient electric motors for 48-V and high-voltage applications to power the next generation of vehicles,” Kehoe said.

Mahle's JD Kehoe said the supplier will soon add 48-volt drive motors to its product portfolio for passenger EVs. (Thom Cannell)

Engineers are developing products that meet specific functional safety and other automotive requirements. “We’re taking our basic traction motors that we’ve done for the off-road and utility sectors and scaling those up for higher output [48-V], increasing the kW that the drive motor can produce. It’s really about optimizing the power-to-weight ratio of the motors,” he said.

Synchronous electric motors, operating in the range of 42-52 volts, are designed for hybrid-electric vehicles. These Mahle-made liquid-cooled motors provide a peak 20 kW (27 hp) output and a continuous output of 13 kW (17 hp) while delivering up to 60 N·m (44 lb·ft) of torque. In re-generation mode, up to 25 kW (34 hp) can be recaptured.

Mahle’s 48-V electric drive systems will be supplied with integrated electronics. Kehoe noted that Mahle’s acquisitions of Kokusan Denki, Letrika and Nagares provided additional expertise in electric motors and controllers. “These three entities give us a good production footprint along with great historical technology to help us provide a complete system,” he said.

Operating in the 400-800 volt range, Mahle’s high-voltage motors feature Imbedded Permanent Magnet (IPM) technology. “We expect to see our high-voltage motor on a fully electric vehicle as early as the 2022 timeframe,” Kehoe said. These liquid-cooled motors are targeted to have a peak power output of up to 180 kW (2401hp). The motors will use Mahle’s patented liquid-cooled controllers.

“We really have our bases covered with low-voltage and high-voltage power output electric motors for our automotive customers,” Kehoe asserted.