Electric Motors Are More Efficient Than ICEs: The Aircore Mobility Motor Really Stands Out
Everybody praises batteries and the breakthroughs that make them much better, with more range and less fast-charging timing. But electric motors can be improved too. By a lot, according to Infinitum.
We’ve seen a bunch of new electric cars and concepts at CES 2023, with long-range batteries and powerful electric motors. But none of them had a really amazing such motor. However, there was one company to showcase a promising air core unit – and that was Infinitum Electric.
What, in the name of Edison, is an air core motor? Its creator claims it’s a breakthrough “sustainable axial flux, liquid-cooled e-mobility motor.” And it promises “superior power density and efficiency to extend vehicle range for applications that drive, fly or sail.”
Ok, we get it: it’s amazing. But let’s see if it’s something too good to be true or if it really is an exciting new and workable idea. We tend to trust the second assertion because Infinitum Electric received an investment from Caterpillar Venture Capital two years ago.
If you don’t know it already, I’ll tell you what Caterpillar is: the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives. This is a hint that the air core motor might be something big.
Another hint is that Infinitum Electric’s total funding to date is almost $150 million. Moreover, the two-years old company has already secured customer agreements with more than $900 million in potential orders for companies in heavy industries.
Air core instead of iron core
But let’s get back to the details of the Aircore Mobility unit. The main feature is it replaces the copper wire and laminated iron core found in conventional motors with a printed circuit board (PCB) stator. This PCB stator weighs 90 percent less than an iron core stator.
Combined with high-energy magnets, this next-generation motor can achieve up to four or five times the current density of a conventional, liquid-cooled electric one. The new liquid cooling technology allows the coolant to be in direct contact with the stator, mitigating heat across a larger surface area.
Its topology cuts core losses and delivers a broader range of speeds and load conditions where the motor can operate at high-efficiency levels. The modular axial design allows mobility engineers to build multi-rotor motors that are slim and lightweight. They can add power, from 50 to 250 kW, without significantly increasing the size and weight of the drivetrain.
But they can also be downsized to replace the small electric motors that power infotainment systems, heating and AC, window controls, and even the power steering. A modern EV is using up to 50 such motors, usually cooled by noisy and less energy-efficient fans. Replacing it with air core motors reduces electricity consumption and keeps noise low in quiet EVs.
Infinitum claims the Aircore Mobility unit is ten times more reliable than a conventional iron stator electric motor. When compared to conventional electric motors, the one that Aircore Mobility created is 10% more efficient, 50% smaller and lighter, and uses 66% less copper.
These are important values, as electric motors consume more than half of the world’s electricity today. Around 800 million motors are sold annually worldwide, a number that has been increasing by 10% each year.
So it’s very important that Infinitum’s Aircore Mobility motor is designed and manufactured with a sustainable, circular lifecycle. It uses fewer raw materials and its modular design allows the housing, rotors, and stators to be reused multiple times, giving parts a second and third life. Its smaller size also means fewer transportation-related emissions.
The air core motor concept also targets a $17 billion annual alternator market in industrial applications. It is well suited for auxiliary motor applications for Class 1-8 commercial vehicles as well as aerospace, marine, construction, and agricultural applications.
Infinitum’s alternators remove many of the complexities present in conventional alternators, such as copper windings and traditional exciters. Aircore Power Gen is one-third the size and weight of a traditional alternator yet produces the same amount of power.
It’s also suitable for non-vehicle applications
For instance, it can be used as a generator for a construction or oilfield site or an emergency repair at a remote field location. Thanks to its small size, it can serve commercial and residential buildings that can house additional generators for redundancy in space-constrained areas.
It’s also suitable for HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air conditioning) systems and can be directly mounted on the fan to develop smaller systems with increased efficiency, which are easier and cost-effective to install and maintain.
Many other industrial and commercial pump applications – wastewater and water treatment facilities, for instance – require powerful and durable pumps to efficiently move fluids. These motors also offer additional flexibility for pump applications through the integrated variable frequency drive (VFD).
They can even be used for industrial conveyor and materials handling applications that need high torque and high power at a relatively low rpm. These motors are rated to function reliably across an operating temperature range of -25° to 40°C (-13°F to 104°F) and 95 percent relative humidity.
It looks like Infinitum’s Aircore Mobility motor really is a breakthrough. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s the winner of three 2023 CES Innovation Honoree designations. This air core motor simply stands for a big leap in sustainable technology.
Moreover, in 2022 Infinitum Electric expanded its offices in Round Rock, Texas, and Spokane, Washington, to support the company’s rapid growth and expanding operations. After all, its technology has the potential positive impacts of lowering emissions, reducing waste, and improving efficiency in a reduced-carbon future.
It’s a milestone in more than one way
The most important is that this technology – which is covered by 32 issued patents and 44 pending patents – will be on the market starting in Q2 2023. The company started raising money for its R&D and production in 2019, so it’s a very fast development.
One key element of the company’s future planning is that this technology is suitable for both the Electric Vehicle and Oil and Gas markets. It will probably take a couple of years to see such motors powering more efficient EVs. For now, the focus is on battery tech improvements for a longer range.
In the meantime, heavy equipment oil-fueled engines can benefit greatly from reducing emissions thanks to this improved electric motor. Make no mistake, industry and energy generation need several years, if not decades, for the fossil-fuel-free transition.
Any idea to produce less pollution and emissions until that point must be taken into account. Infinitum’s electric motor efficiency exceeds IE5 efficiency class, which the industry today considers to be the highest for low-voltage AC motors.
Although electric motors in today’s EVs are clearly much more efficient than internal combustion engines, there are some serious challenges that must be addressed. The need for rare earth magnets really is a barrier, because of their scarcity and cost.
We simply need new ideas to cut the dependence on rare earth. For instance, YASA’s flux motors are appropriate only for high-performance cars for now. But they will surely evolve into mass-production versions at some point, with intensive research and testing. Time will tell, and we hope the waiting will be a short one.
“The electric motor market is a $150 billion industry annually, over a century old, and many markets within the industry are trying to consume and create power more efficiently. Some markets, like Electric Vehicles, are in the process of electrifying completely.” (Ben Schuler, CEO, Infinitum)