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German automotive parts manufacturer MAHLE is developing a new magnet-free electric motor that is more environmentally friendly to produce, is cheaper to manufacture than comparable motors, and is maintenance-free, a press statement from the Stuttgart-based firm explains.

The company says it has combined the strengths of various electric motor concepts in one product, allowing for an efficiency “above 95 percent at almost all operating points” — a level only achieved in Formula E racing cars thus far.

MAHLE explains that its “new kind of magnet-free electric motor does not require rare earth elements.” This makes production better for the environment as well as bringing “advantages in terms of costs and resource security,” the company says in its release.

Wear-free and highly efficient at high speeds

The new technology utilizes contactless power transmission, which enables the motor to be wear-free and highly efficient at high speeds. When in use, the electrical current in the motor is transmitted into the rotor wirelessly via an alternating current. This induces a current in a receiving electrode, which charges a wound copper coil to produce an electromagnetic field.

As the transmission of currents between rotating parts in the motor is contact-free, the engine is also maintenance-free, the team at MAHLE says. They also highlight the fact it is easily scalable to anything from subcompact to commercial vehicles.

“With our new electric motor, we’re living up to our responsibility as a sustainably operating company,” says Michael Frick, Chairman of the MAHLE Management Board (ad interim) and CFO. “Dispensing with magnets and therefore the use of rare earth elements offers great potential not only from a geopolitical perspective but also with regard to the responsible use of nature and resources.”

In order to come up with their design, MAHLE said it used an innovative simulation process that allowed it to adjust and combine the parameters of different motor designs incrementally in order to settle on the optimal solution. The company says this new method allows it to “quickly create the necessary technical conditions in order to advance e-mobility in a sustainable manner worldwide.”

Reducing the EV industry’s reliance on permanent magnets

The recent boom in electric vehicle uptake has seen automakers outside of China working hard to develop electric motors that don’t use permanent magnets. This is due to the fact that these magnets require rare earth metals, whose mining is usually bad for the environment.

What’s more, the materials are largely mined and processed in China, giving Chinese EV automakers the edge when it comes to traditional EV motors — over 90 percent of the world’s rare earth elements currently come from China.

Bentley, for example, also recently unveiled an electric motor design that doesn’t rely on rare earth magnets. The company revealed the motor last year in its bid to lead the charge in sustainable luxury mobility. MAHLE’s is a more utilitarian approach, which makes it all the more sustainable — so all the more power to them.

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