The inconvenient truth about electric motors is that they currently aren’t doing a whole lot for the environment. They may be cleaner than traditional oil-powered motors, but they’re still consuming a colossal amount of electricity — half of all the electricity in the world, to be exact. And while they’re not emitting greenhouse gases or nitrogen oxide (like diesel or gasoline run motors), the electricity that they consume is often produced by burning dirty fossil fuels. Not to mention, disposing of the complex batteries that e-cars use also creates an environmental hazard. Your brand new Tesla may look good, but is it really doing any good? 5 senior NewtonX experts in electric motor technology and applications were joined by 5 NewtonX experts from the Energy industry to discuss this potential upcoming disruptions.
The first important piece of data they put forward is that even though cleaner in appearance, electric motor still indirectly represent 28% of worldwide CO2 emissions associated with energy production. In other words, if we were to improve the efficiency of electric motors by just one tenth, we would reduce CO2 emissions by nearly a billion tons. But until recently, the electric motors produced today have remained as inefficient as the original one developed by Nikola Tesla in 1887.
Why Are Electric Vehicles So Energy Inefficient?
Our NewtonX experts summarize the inherent inefficiency of current electric motors in the following way: standard electric motors use magnets with equal polarity (like a AA battery with a + and – side) to power the rotor in an engine. But this equal polarity allows for energy to escape because the magnetic energy is not only directed towards the axis of the rotor, but rather split half in the right direction, and half in the opposite direction due to the natural polarity of magnets. Naturally, this results in significant losses of excess energy escaping from the system. This inefficient process for producing energy is being used in almost all commercial electric motor applications — including the Tesla.
But there is another solution — one that NewtonX experts say will drastically reduce dependence on fossil fuels, thereby lowering the impact humans are currently having on the environment.
Disrupting Electric Motors With A More Efficient Polarity
The key to reducing energy waste in motors is placing magnets so that nearly all of the magnetic field is focused on the right vector. So, unlike the traditional electric motor, in which poles are split 50/50, you would have a magnet wherein one field is enhanced to over 90 percent while the other is reduced to a few percent. This type of magnetic field is known as the Halbach Array.
This magnetic field reduces energy waste because the vast majority of its energy can be focused in one direction- in this case, in the direction of the airgap between the rotor and the stator to increase efficiency. While traditional magnetic motors radiate energy out, this motor focuses it in one place.
This form of motor has a second, almost equally important benefit: it’s lighter. Traditional motors require a type of metal known as back-iron that Halback Array motors don’t need. Lighter engines improve the weight to power ratio – which as we’ve seen in electric racing cars, can be highly effective when cost is not a barrier. Some companies have begun to develop consumer motors that incorporate this magnetic field and lighter engine.
Focused Magnetics has developed an electromagnetic version of a Halback array, and has received three U.S. patents and several international patents pending for this invention.
Launchpoint Technologies has also applied the Halback Array to defense drones, and received initial funding through DARPA. This motor is similarly ironless, and weighs only 1.4 lb, with 95 percent efficiency, and, according to Launchpoint, a higher power density than any other motor on the market.
These motors provide a solution to a problem that most of us don’t realize we have. Electric vehicles in of themselves do not solve environmental problems on a large scale, but with a push toward a 21st century motor that is efficient, affordable, and light, the impact on energy consumption and waste could be massive.
The Real Impact: How These New Electric Motors Will Affect The Environment And Enterprises
According to the 5 senior NewtonX experts from the energy industry, cars and trucks are responsible for one fifth of the United States’ global warming pollution, due to the carbon dioxide that they emit. And the ramifications of oil-powered vehicles extend beyond the earth’s atmosphere: fuel spills from cars and trucks, and particulate matters from emissions also contaminate rivers, lakes, and valuable wetlands – endangering species that depend on these environments.
All e-cars are a step in the right direction: they don’t emit greenhouse gases or nitrogen oxide. But as long as they continue to rely on power plants fueled by dirty fossil fuels (coal and gas), for them to be truly effective they will need to consume less energy than they currently do. In fact, all 10 NewtonX experts conclude that as of today “the amount of pollution from an electric car is similar to the one of a traditional car when considering the full energy and production value chain”.
Advances in e-car motors may prove to finally be the answer to global warming, though. Through increased efficiency that lowers energy consumption, these new electric motors could end up saving the planet.
The data and insights in this article are sourced from NewtonX experts. For the purposes of this blog, we keep our experts anonymous and ensure that no confidential data or information has been disclosed. Experts are a mix of industry consultants and previous employees of the company(s) referenced.