Driveline specialist GKN says in-wheel motors will allow full torque vectoring
We have electric cars because we realised we need to cut down on emissions. But now they’re here, drivetrain engineers are finding ways of making a virtue out of necessity – by using electric technology to create vehicles that handle better than ever.
West Midlands outfit GKN can already point to the Porsche 918 and BMW i8 as examples of what its world-class transmission engineering can do. But that’s just the beginning.
Electric cars of the future, says the company’s eDrive boss Theo Gassman, will use in-wheel motors. The technology isn’t there quite yet, especially where more powerful units are concerned. But it’s coming – and when it gets here, it will pave the way for full torque vectoring.
The motors’ internal drag will be able to do some of the work of conventional brakes, too. This will allow smaller, lighter discs – meaning less unsprung weight.
The result of all this is that electric cars will be able to display a level of agility that’s never been seen before.
On a more prosaic level, positioning the motors in the wheels allows car makers to use what Gassman calls ‘skateboard architecture’ – that is, with no transmission tunnel or engine bay. And that opens up major new opportunities for interior packaging.
Gassman says that in sports cars, the need for greater power means centrally mounted motors will remain the norm for some years to come. ‘But for city cars,’ he adds, ‘maybe it’s not so far away.’