CES 2024: Magna Puts Multiple Innovations in New, More Efficient 800v E-Motor

Better cooling and more efficient chip placement are among the techniques used to hit a new company high for efficiency, 93%

The 800V e-motor can be installed horizontally or vertically, thanks to the placement of the coolant pump (lower left) that stays at the bottom of the package in either configuration. (SAE/Chris Clonts)

Ahead of its press conference this week at CES in Las Vegas, Magna International showed journalists a brand new 800-volt e-drive motor that it said sets new standards in efficiency, power-to-weight ratio and torque density.

Joerg Grotendorst, Magna's senior vice president for R&D, talks about the next-gen traction motor. The cutaway image shows the motor's traditional copper windings. (SAE/Chris Clonts)

Joerg Grotendorst, senior vice president of corporate R&D, included the announcement in an overview of Magna’s recent focus on e-motors, improving ADAS and impaired-driver detection. “Our response to the increasing cost-cutting demands of the OEMs is to work with (a philosophy) we call Magna Integrated Systems,” he said, explaining that it is more efficient to produce a system for an OEM rather than just a component here and there. Which the company is still willing to do, of course.

The 258 kW peak-power unit can generate peak axle torque of 5,000 nM (3,688 ft-lb) while hitting a max of 20,000 rpm. It does this in a package weighing only 75 kg (165 lbs). It reaches 93% efficiency, an improvement over other Magna offerings’ high of 91%. It’s equivalent in capabilities to a 5.0-L Hemi [V8], one engineer said.

The enhancements driving that efficiency include the ability to route cooling fluid to the components that need it the most at any given time and a new way of embedding the controller chips.

Magna Chief Engineer for Powertrain Electrification Mike Dowsett talked about the new motor and its entire line, including e-axles fit for off-road vehicle use. (SAE/Chris Clonts)

Mike Dowsett, Magna’s chief engineer for powertrain electrification, further detailed the motor’s innovations, not the least of which is its ability to be used horizontally, typically when it’s at the rear of a vehicle, or vertically at the front. The key is that when the motor is rotated 90 degrees, the pump for the coolant is still located at the bottom, where it must be to function properly.

“This is active cooling fluid control,” he said. “It increases efficiency by moving oil to different locations based on the power demands. For low speed and high torque situations, more cooling is directed to the magnets. For high speed and low torque, it is directed to the jacket and the windings, which are traditional non-braided windings.” Asked about whether Magna was considering printed circuit board (PCB) stators instead ofwindings, something being promoted by companies like Schaeffler and Infinitum, he said the company didn’t believe that today’s power demands could be met that way.

The electronically controlled coolant/oil pump at the bottom of Magna's next-generation emotor can route coolant to different areas of the package depending on power and torque demand. (Magna)

Dowsett said Magna has accounted for bearing current, a damaging phenomenon in which electrical current from the magnets finds its way to the bearings and exceeds the breakdown voltage of the lubricant. This causes pitting and fluting of the bearing races and can prematurely ruin a motor. He said engineers employed the following bearing-current fighting techniques:

  • Isolating the bearings
  • A common mode choke, which works to filter out the current from being passed through the bearings
  • A clamp that shorts the current to the ground
The motor can generate a peak output of 258 kW. (Magna)

Without all three, he said, most electric motors are prone to premature failure — as early as around 50,000 miles.

Magna was already using silicon carbide chips, which are more efficient than silicon chips due in part to their low thermal expansion and high maximum current properties. For the next-gen motor, the chips, instead of being embedded in ceramic material, are embedded directly in the PCB. “This improves the switching losses, but it also improves the way that we interface with this. We won't see any large welded components and bond wires and all that.” He continued: “It really simplifies things and allows us to cool these for one side only.”

In Magna's Connected Perception, sensors on infrastructure, as depicted at left in the photo above, can "see" dangers that vehicles can't, such as a pedestrian about to come out from being hidden by a building. That info is communicated via the cloud to the vehicle at the stop sign and the driver is warned. (Magna)

The motor also is run with optimized electrical pulse patterns to reduce noise with no accompanying power drop.The motor’s sustainability features include a reduction in the use of rare-earth materials by 5% and an elimination of the need for terbium and reducing the dysprosium to 0.5%. The remaining material is neodymium.

Grotendorst, the R&D vice president, said that the company is also exploring the idea of making entire pieces of a car. For instance, imagine the efficiencies of “cutting a vehicle in pieces and manufacturing all of them in parallel.”

Advanced safety systems

Steven Jenkins, vice president of technology strategy, highlighted Magna’s work on thermal imaging (now in 300,000 vehicles), ADAS and impaired-driving detection systems. SAE Media wrote about those, and the company’s e-axles, in July. Magna’s impaired-driver detection tech, gained in an acquisition of Veoneer last year, relies on a combo of passive detection of alcohol on a driver’s breath and, if that raises a red flag, visual examination of eyes and their movement. What happens next in event of detection, such as blocking the car from starting or a simple audiovisual warning, will be determined later by regulators and industry groups. Earlier, competitor Bosch also discussed its impaired-driving systems and the current regulatory environment.

In a possibility that would take a long time to develop, Jenkins talked about the possibilities of cars and infrastructure pieces (traffic cameras, security cameras on buildings) sharing data to and from the cloud to improve safety. Magna’s vision of the system is called Connected Perception.