Electric cars are all very nice, but if the goal is to lower carbon emissions and reduce the use of fossil fuels, what we really need is more electric trucks. After all, trucks contribute a disproportionate amount of the carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Diesel trucks add other nasty things like nitrous oxides and particulates to the atmosphere.
Colorado’s UQM Technologies has forged an alliance with Eaton and Michigan’s Pi Innovo to develop a fully electric drivetrain system. “Supplier relationships with Eaton and Pi Innovo will allow UQM to meet the growth projections of the EV commercial global market including China, Europe and South America,” the company says in a press release this week.
The alliance calls for Eaton to develop and supply a two speed transmission for an EV application. Pi Innovo will develop and supply the transmission control unit. Together, the components will be combined with UQM’s current PowerPhase HD220/HD250 motor and inverter system to create a full electric drivetrain system called the UQM PowerPhaseDT. UQM says it will have prototypes ready for customers by early fall and start production early in 2017.
The Eaton two speed transmission provides a greater speed and torque range than is normally possible in a direct drive system. That means a smaller, less expensive electric motor can be used to power large vehicles. The drivetrain allows for better packaging, efficiency, greater payload capacity, and lower cost when compared with direct drive or single speed drivetrain strategies.
“Perhaps the biggest benefit is the fact that the two-speed transmission keeps the electric motor operating in the highest efficiency region for a greater portion of the drive cycle,” UQM technology VP Josh Ley says in the partnership announcement. “This, coupled with the extremely high efficiency of the UQM PowerPhaseDT electric drivetrain system, will enable the highest overall vehicle efficiency, saving cost in batteries and increasing range,” he said.
“Pi Innovo’s hardware, software, and applications engineers have worked closely with the UQM team to optimize the performance of the system to meet the efficiency requirements demanded by UQM’s customers,” said Pi Innovo Walter Lucking. “ Marco Rollero, Eaton vehicle group EMEA sales and marketing director adds,“This system will help vehicle manufacturers ensure they are providing a product that helps them improve vehicle efficiency without compromising performance.
The partnership couldn’t come at a better time. In the commercial world, efficiency and cost drive buying decisions rather than the styling and performance issues that attract passenger car buyers. Getting people and stuff from here to there at the cheapest per mile cost is what sells trucks. If this drivetrain shifts that equation — which includes not only original purchase price but also total cost of fuel and maintenance over a vehicle’s useful life — more fleet managers will find electric trucks are just what their business needs.
“We have done extensive market research and believe that this offering will be the ideal drivetrain solution for electric and range-extended commercial vehicles,” said UQM president and CEO Joe Mitchell. “The development and production of a full electric drivetrain system will support the overarching need for full transmission systems as enhanced performance and efficiency requirements are mandated by customer drive cycle needs as well as the need to reduce battery costs and meet more stringent environmental regulations,” he says.