Can motors in wheels spark electric car revolution?

The SIM-LEI electric car can travel 333 kilometers on a single charge, say its creators.

There may have been more alluring electric cars on display at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, but the beauty of this prototype lies in its performance.

The SIM-LEI can travel 333 kilometers (more than 200 miles) on a single charge, say its Japanese creators SIM Drive, and it also boasts supercar-like acceleration — 0 to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds.

The key to these remarkable statistics lies not, as you might expect, underneath the hood but in its wheels.

Most electric vehicles house a single motor in the area vacated by the petrol engine, but the SIM-LEI has four motors, which fit in the hubs its wheels.

Each one delivers 65 kilowatts, giving the car a total output of 260 kilowatts, compared with the 80 kilowatts of output available in, say, the Nissan Leaf.

A 24.5 kWh battery sits below the floor along with inverters and controllers, which fit into a unique steel monocoque helping reduce weight, according to SIM Drive.

More innovation: World’s smallest car fuels nanotech advance

The SIM-LEI — LEI stands for Leading Efficiency In-Wheel motor — took 15 months to complete and builds on advances made with the fantastic-looking Eliica — a super-fast eight-wheeler designed by SIM Drive CEO and President Hiroshi Shimizu.

His latest design may not look so sporty but the SIM LEI does come with low-friction tires and a low-set chassis, which helps reduce drag, says the company.

Recent technological advances are making in-wheel motors more attractive, says James Widmer, from the Center for Advanced Electrical Drives at the UK’s Newcastle University.

“Motors have become more powerful for their weight and the volume they take up, which has made it more practical to get very good performance from putting electric motors directly in the wheels of cars,” Widmer said.

And electric motors provide drivers with far greater control than internal combustion engines, he says.

“If you do put an electric motor in each wheel then there are huge possibilities with things like traction control and stability control,” he added.

While car makers including Peugeot and Mitsubishi have used in-wheel motors in concept cars that have never been commercially available, SIM Drive hopes its four-seat sedan will go into production in 2013.

SIM Drive says the price will depend on how many it makes, but if the car ends up being mass produced, customers can expect to pay around ¥2.5 million ($32,000)

The future of war Far-out battle Tech

The Transformer program aims to build a flying car for the battlefield. The aim is to create a vertical take-off and landing vehicle that can carry four people more than 250 miles on one tank of fuel (artist's impression).



The Transformer program aims to build a flying car for the battlefield. The aim is to create a vertical take-off and landing vehicle that can carry four people more than 250 miles on one tank of fuel (artist’s impression).



The Transformer program aims to build a flying car for the battlefield. And the car will need to fly itself.

The aim is to create a vertical take-off-and-landing vehicle that can carry four people more than 250 miles on one tank of fuel.

Six contractors are working on the project, including Lockheed Martin, AAI Corp. and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

Sanjiv Singh, a CMU research professor of robotics, said: “In practical terms … the vehicle will need to be able to fly itself, or to fly with only minimal input from the operator. And this means that the vehicle has to be continuously aware of its environment and be able to automatically react in response to what it perceives.”

Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System (CT2WS)

The Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System program is developing binoculars that can identify threats from a long distance and then inform a soldier of the danger.

It will use wide-angle optics and digital imaging, but the really clever bit is its use of “cognitive visual processing algorithms” and “operator neural signature detection processing.” That means monitoring the subconscious patterns in a soldier’s brain to detect a threat the soldier has perceived before they are even consciously aware of it.

Nano Air Vehicle (NAV)

The Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program is developing a tiny, ultra-light air vehicle for indoor and outdoor military missions. The program has already produced an impressive prototype robotic hummingbird, complete with fast-flapping wings that let it hover and fly.




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