(Blog from Indy) 2011 SAE Powertrain Electric Motors Symposium March 23 - Morning Session

  • 23-Mar-2011 05:02 EDT
SAE Magazines Senior Editor Lindsay Brooke

2:15 p.m. Wednesday March 23, Indianapolis: This morning’s session was full of useful takeaways. It kicked off with a panel that outlined the technical issues driving e-motor development. David Fulton, Director of Advanced Engineering at Remy Inc., laid out the pros and cons of the three main types of electric machine used in autos—induction (IM), permanent magnet (PM), and switched reluctance (SR). Systems cost issues were discussed by Delphi’s Advanced Power Electronics Research Engineer, Ron Krefta, and Dr. Chris Mi, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Next came a broad view of global market developments by conference moderator Wolfgang Bernhart, an analyst specializing in vehicle electrification with industry consultants Roland Berger. Bernhart brought two very interesting issues to the symposium. First was insight into China’s motor-development policy, with its R&D and production subsidized by the government, which is aimed at supporting locally produced e-motors. A tough nut to crack for “foreign” companies. Also, Bernhart expects most OEMs in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. will develop their new e-motors internally for at least the next decade in order to add value rather than purchase them from suppliers.

Capping the morning session was Jack Lifton’s very engaging and sometimes humorous discussion on the future of critical rare-earth metals as they relate to global electrified-vehicle demand. Lifton, the founder of Technology Metals Research, is a world-renowned expert on the strategic and commodity metals essential to industry, and he has over 40 years experience in autos. He tackled head-on the controversial issue of whether the world is running out of the rare-earth metals (neodymium, dysprosium) that are essential to PM motors—they’re not running out, and ample reserves exist in California, Alaska, Canada, South Africa, and Australia. The challenge, Lifton noted, is the lack of production capacity outside of China, which holds “a monopoly on rare-earth production sites” and is expected to control the global market until at least 2015, he said.

Toyota is developing a rare-earth mine and recycling operations for the metals in Vietnam, he noted. When we broke for the roast chicken and broiled salmon luncheon, Lifton was surrounded by engineers wanting his business card—including this writer.

A final blog from today’s event will follow.

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