Dr. Chris Harris, CEO
Imagine a motor vehicle which can go as fast as a Bugatti Veyron, yet have emission standards as the iconic BMW i3. At a time when the automotive industry is witnessing rapid vehicle hybridisation and electrification, this combination still seems inconceivable to many. While adhering to the strict emissions targets being set globally and fulfilling the requirement for greater efficiency through electrification is a challenge in and of itself, manufacturers stand in need of an innovative technology that seamlessly meets the needs of the rapidly expanding hybrid and pure electric automotive market. To put it succinctly, with rising awareness towards economic and environmental concerns with regard to fuel combustion in automobiles, the world needs a promising means to reduced emissions and fuel consumption without compromising vehicle functionality and driving performances.
To add more perspective, let’s consider the case of Ferrari. Ahead of its time, in 2019, Ferrari made waves in the market with its SF90 Stradale, one of the most potent launches of Maranello. The power of the award-winning ‘F154’ twin-turbocharged V8 hybrid monster with nearly 1000 bhp stems from a trio of electric motors—two mounted at the front, and one mounted at the rear between the engine and gearbox, giving all-wheel drive. With a relatively small lithium-ion battery pack inside, the SF90 Stradale delivers 16 miles of electric-only range.
This impressive beast is powered by a custom electric motor from YASA—one of the world’s leading manufacturers of axialflux electric motors for automotive and aerospace applications. YASA’s axial-flux electric motor technology is a step change from the legacy radial technology on which much of the automotive sector still relies for hybrid and pure electric applications. Their electric motors deliver the greatest efficiencies and highest power densities in class for the smallest size and weight, making them ideally suited to premium electric vehicles.
YASA invested two years in working in close collaboration with Ferrari to develop a custom version of the electric motor that meets Ferrari’s demanding performance and weight specifications. Bringing in this unmatched mix of power and torque density is the meticulous compilation of two instrumental aspects in automotive manufacturing: weight and package size. With YASA’s innovative axial-flux electric motor designs contributing to SF90 Stradale’s powerful stomach-churning speed with silent zero-emission driving, the collaboration between these forward-looking companies is redefining high-performance electric driving experiences.
HOW DOES YASA WORK WITH OEMS?
It stands to reason that renowned brands like Ferrari and other OEM customers rely on YASA because of its strong innovation culture and its electric powertrain solutions, which offer best-in-class performance in a small, lightweight package at competitive prices. In this way, YASA is helping its customers improve electric vehicle efficiencies while providing exciting driving experiences.
The Journey to Excellence Begins with an Innovative Idea
It was 2004 when Dr. Tim Woolmer, CTO and Founder of YASA developed the unique YASA (Yokeless And Segmented Armature) motor topology as part of his DPhil at the University of Oxford. “Our core technology around an axial-flux motor exhibits a unique topology that allows us to make electric motors, which are suitable for the automotive and other industries. This unique technology can deliver both power and torque density, at about one-third of the size and weight offered by our competitors in class,” says Dr. Chris Harris, CEO, YASA. Today, YASA caters to automotive customers looking for technologies that can help them accelerate to deliver both hybrid and pure electric vehicles. YASA has a production capacity of up to 100k motors and controllers per annum from its production facility in Oxford, UK. YASA’s motors and controllers are ideally suited for applications where space and weight are critical, including automotive, industrial, marine, and aerospace.
As someone who brings over 25 years of experience in building and leading high technology companies in the UK, the US, and Europe, Harris takes immense pride in leading a sharply focused team on improving efficiency. “Our motors are typically 10 to 12 percent more efficient than our competitors. “This translates straight into either an extended range or into having a smaller battery, and therefore lower cost, lower weight and a plethora of other advantages,” he adds. With a rapid move to electrification in both automotive and aerospace sectors, Harris views the replacement of complex legacy technology with the application of innovative technology as the first step to creating exciting electric driving experiences while also reducing the impact on the environment. He also underscores the importance of solving long-standing challenges of space and weight in the automotive industry.
The Innovator’s DNA
This unique technology can deliver both power and torque density, at about one-third of the size and weight offered by our competitors in class
Harris’s observation is spot on. With smaller, lighter, and more efficient attributes, YASA’s revolutionary compact, lightweight, and powerful electric motors and controllers enable vehicle hybridisation and electrification with about 96-97 percent efficiencies on a WLTP cycle compared to legacy technology. YASA’s efficiencies are even more significant in motorway cruising—a driving scenario where, in contrast, legacy radial electric motors are at their least efficient. This significant rise in efficiency stems from the concise axial length and high-power density of YASA e-motors, making them a particularly effective solution for P2 type hybrid vehicles and range-extending modules as well as for P4 traction. “Electric powertrains are reliant on batteries that are highly expensive. Hence, there’s a push towards getting smaller and lighter motors and powertrains. The smaller, the lighter and the lesser the weight, the longer range and the better performance you can have from the vehicle, along with greater efficiency.
This is what the mature topology of YASA stands for,” explains Harris.
YASA specialises in developing a range of “off-the-shelf” electric motors and controllers, along with fully-customised products optimised for integration into electric and hybrid vehicle powertrains. Additionally, YASA's electric motors and controllers can be integrated into both electric and hybrid powertrains to optimise vehicle performance, range and costs, offering maximum design freedom. When it comes to the manufacturing processes, YASA challenges conventional practices in the automotive industry. For instance, the company uses polymer materials (aluminum[M1] or steel) for the fixed part of its electric motor, which further helps reduce the weight. YASA also utilises laser welding techniques and direct cooling of the coils and the motor’s pump pieces. “We have a very unique way of making our coils, which involves an edge winding technique, giving us a small, compact, and thin motor. We also use four to five times less iron in our motor, which makes it a lot lighter than the ones developed using the legacy technologies out there,” adds Harris.
"Our motors are typically 10 to 12 percent more efficient than our competitors. This translates straight into either an extended range that you can have for a vehicle, a pure electric vehicle, or into having a smaller battery, and therefore lower cost, lower weight, and a plethora of other advantages"
Quality British engineering and in-depth industry expertise are also winning differentiators for YASA. From their production plant in Oxford, YASA leverages the latest technologies and thorough processes to bring in new innovations faster and integrate those into mainstream product developments. While a typical development cycle and the time to market spans three to four years in the automotive industry, YASA works closely with its clients to ensure that those timescales are improved with the aid of the latest technology innovations. “For most luxury automotive customers, it is challenging to display rapid innovation and accelerate volume in a comparatively new arena of electrification. YASA bridges this gap using our innovative processes and our ability to scale to volume to help those customers bring that technology to market without compromising the quality,” reveals Harris. YASA operates multiple development, durability and production line dynamometer test rigs capable of automated and programmable testing up to 10,000rpm, 800Nm and 400kW. These bespoke dynamometers are controlled by in-house developed software that enables performance tests across a wide range of standard and customer drive cycles, including high-average and fast-changing dynamic loads.
Leading Electric Power into the Future
With a strong value proposition in place, YASA is securing a lead in the automotive industry as the partner of choice. The future is bright for YASA, which has ambitious plans of tapping into the world of electrification beyond automotive and into aerospace, where its technology benefits are even more pronounced. “We are looking to integrate power electronics with the motor much more closely. While the industry is moving towards more integration of subsystems to reduce package size, weight and cost, YASA will focus on similar innovative integration efforts,” concludes Harris.