Published on March 11th, 2018 | by Steve Bakker
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March 11th, 2018 by Steve Bakker
Any Tesla enthusiast knows abounding able-bodied that the name originally alleged for what was again Tesla Motors was based on a motor architecture accustomed to Nikola Tesla, who lived in the 19th century. Virtually every car that Tesla has produced, from the Roadster to the Model S to the Model X, has been powered by a adaptation of that admirable 3-phase AC consecration motor.
For decades afterwards its invention, Nikola’s electric motor was tethered to a anchored area 3-phase AC ability outlet. The consecration motor was assuredly freed from its moorings in the 1960s aback Silicon Valley came to the accomplishment with agenda electronics. It was about 1990 aback bohemian architect Alan Cocconi developed one of the aboriginal carriageable inverters, a accessory that turns the absolute accepted (DC) in an electric car’s array into the alternating accepted (AC) appropriate by an consecration motor. The inverter/motor aggregate was aboriginal acclimated in an EV that would eventually become the GM EV1, and afterwards Cocconi alone an bigger adaptation of that powertrain into the tZERO sports car, which would afterwards be apparent by Tesla Motors co-founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, and a bit afterwards by Elon Musk.
Tesla would end up licensing the tZERO’s powertrain technology for the Roadster. Those actual dots actuality affiliated as they were, denote the arch acumen Tesla Motors acclimated the consecration motor in its aboriginal assembly car (albeit with abounding improvements).
The adorableness of the consecration motor is that it doesn’t crave any abiding magnets. Abiding magnets of acceptable ability to circuit up the motor of an EV are usually of the rare-earth variety, which are abominable for attributes such as aerial antecedent cost, the abeyant to demagnetize or break, sourcing issues, and amount variability. But the transistor had fabricated it accessible to use the PM-free consecration motor in the busline sector. The consecration motor uses electromagnets (coils of wire captivated about a adamant metal core), which can be angry on and off — or switched — many times per additional acknowledgment to transistors with esoteric-sounding names such as Complementary Metal Oxide Acreage Effect Transistor (MOS-FET) and, later, Insulated-Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT).
The consecration motor is of advance a abundant machine. But it’s not perfect. Tesla’s accomplishing uses a cher and difficult-to-cast rotor ancient from authentic copper. And due to the attributes of how consecration motors function, the rotor tends to get hot and can alike overheat. Calefaction is ashen activity (known as i2r loss), and in an electric car, that matters. The consecration motor is additionally not as able at low speeds as some added designs, so the aperture has consistently been accessible to a added able and beneath cher solution.
As it happens, the Model 3 is not powered by an consecration motor. Wow. Given that the consecration motor is Tesla’s namesake, we appetite to apperceive why. What’s activity on? What motor did the aggregation use instead? But Tesla’s not talkin’. OK, they’re talking a little bit. We were warned of accessible changes aback in 2015 aback Tesla’s Chief Technology Officer, J.B. Straubel, abreast us that the Model 3 would arise with “a new motor technology.” We additionally got angled off in backward 2017 aback an EPA document surfaced advertence that the Model 3 was using … a abiding allurement motor. Double wow. This was accepted beforehand this year aback an commodity in Charged quoted Tesla’s Chief Motor Designer, Konstantinos Laskaris, anecdotic the new motor like this: “So, as you know, our Model 3 has a abiding allurement apparatus now. This is because for the blueprint of the achievement and efficiency, the abiding allurement apparatus bigger apparent our amount abuse function, and it was optimal for the ambit and achievement target.”
Uh huh. So now we apperceive for abiding that the Model 3 is not application an consecration motor, and is application a abiding allurement motor. In fact, the EPA certificate absolutely declared the motor blazon — complete with a typo — as “AC 3 PHASE PERMENENT MAGNET” (as a reference, the Chevy Bolt EV uses a 3-phase abiding allurement motor). But this I accept is all we can say we know. From actuality on, it’s speculation. Guesswork. However, it’s assumption area the pieces of the jigsaw addle are starting to fit calm absolutely nicely. Let’s see if we can ascertain whether or not the Model 3 is absolutely application the aforementioned blazon of motor as, say, the Bolt, which is how things aboriginal appeared.
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Enter auto teardown authority “Ingineerix.” In February, Ingineerix acquaint a alternation of alluring videos exploring the apparatus of the Model 3. In an access advantaged “The Dark Side,” he explores the base of the car and starts allotment off apparatus and subsystems as admitting he was account from a teleprompter. Absolutely abundant being that to the best of my ability hasn’t been explained about before. The guy seems to absolutely apperceive his stuff. I affianced Ingineerix in the video’s comments section, area he arise that the car has a “Switched Abhorrence motor, application abiding magnets.” Ingineerix went on to say, “Tesla calls it a PMSRM, Abiding Allurement Switched Abhorrence Motor. It’s a new type, and actual adamantine to get right, but Tesla did it!”
Well hello. This is absolutely a horse of a actual altered color. Few accept heard of a Switched Abhorrence Motor. What affectionate of beastly is this? And, how can annihilation that admiral a 3800 lb agent to 60 afar per hour in about 5 abnormal be termed reluctant? Let’s acknowledgment both those questions forth the way to advertent a few addle pieces.
To best accept what is Model 3-worthy about the abhorrence motor, we charge aboriginal brace our memories about how Tesla’s bequest 3-phase AC consecration motor works (which I wrote about in some detail here). Alike if you’re not a motorhead, aloof agenda this one ascertainment apropos the motor: The consecration allotment of the technology’s name has to do with the actuality that in lieu of deploying big-ticket abiding magnets on the rotor, a ample alluring acreage generated from the anchored allocation of the motor (the stator) absolutely induces an opposing alluring acreage on the awful conductive chestnut rotor. And we apperceive what happens aback two opposing alluring fields interact: they cull against anniversary other. If you accept a allurement sitting on the kitchen table and move addition allurement of adverse polarity nearby, the allurement in your duke pulls the added allurement against it. Likewise aback the two opposing alluring fields generated central the motor of a Ludicrous Model S P100D collaborate … the car takes off like a bat out of Hell.
Isn’t science fun?
The abhorrence motor is able of agnate magic. However, in this case, the architecture is not based on two alluring fields interacting with each. There’s alone one alluring field. How can that be? Well, go aback to that kitchen table and alter one of those magnets with a babyish allotment of adamant or steel. What happens aback you move the actual allurement against the metal? The allurement will of advance cull the block of metal against itself. Now what if you were to appearance a rotor for an electric motor out of aloof a aesthetic block of steel, but absorb the absolute electromagnets in the stator? As the electromagnets are angry on and off in aloof the appropriate sequence, they would allure the animate butt to turn. Congratulations, you aloof advised a abhorrence motor! And the actuality that the electromagnets are switched on and off in arrangement to circuit the rotor (as with the consecration motor), you accept what is termed a Switched Abhorrence Machine.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you were assigned the job of designing a new motor for the Model 3. Elon Musk has defined that your architecture charge amount beneath than the Model S motor. You accept additionally been instructed that the motor charge not accommodation on performance, yet it charge be lighter and added able than its sibling. What would you do?
You’d anticipate about applying for a job at the McDonald’s bottomward the alley from the Fremont factory. No, no — after that. Here’s a hint: You would appraise all the altered electric motor architectures that exist. In accomplishing so, you would arise beyond a architecture that’s absolutely beforehand than Nikola Tesla’s 1892 invention. Added than 50 years earlier, the abhorrence apparatus had been invented in 1838. And it’s a decidedly candied design. The abhorrence apparatus is simple, it’s efficient, it’s bunched in size. And, it’s bargain to produce. Yet the abhorrence motor sat on the shelf for over a century, adversity from a debilitating ache alleged Torque Ripple (due to the abhorrence machine’s ability to acquire a phenomena apperceive as cogging). Torque ripple artlessly agency that the ability achievement of the abhorrence motor fluctuates up and down. Certainly not acceptable for an EV. Aback you put the pedal to the metal, you appetite a nice bland dispatch ramp.
The abhorrence apparatus was partially rescued by the aforementioned technology that fabricated it accessible to put the consecration motor into an electric car — power electronics from Silicon Valley. The abhorrence motor is awfully difficult to ascendancy (RPM, assurance of rotor position, etc.), but avant-garde inverters and ascendancy systems helped affected that foible. Still, the torque ripple affair remained a claiming alike as the 21st aeon approached. But in dabbling around, you alpha to apprehension some analysis on the affair demography abode in the aboriginal decade of this century. You arise beyond a 2011 analysis cardboard claiming that the torque ripple affair has been addressed. The researcher had anchored some babyish rare-earth magnets in the stator of a abhorrence motor appropriate forth with the absolute electromagnets. In accomplishing so, the torque ambit had smoothed out. As a bonus, the cardboard claimed to accomplish a 30% addition in ability achievement with the admittance of the rare-earths. Now there’s some aboriginal attempt thinking. Whoever aboriginal anticipation of lacing the stator with rare-earths has allegedly arise up with the greatest alliance back addition anticipation to bore a amber bar into a jar of peanut butter, bearing the Reese’s Peanut Adulate Cup.
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Your thoughts coalesce. With two of the above issues of the abhorrence apparatus accepting been addressed, you booty the attempt and alpha alive with this design. The aboriginal affair you are able to do is abandon that big-ticket chestnut rotor in the bequest motor and alter it with a far cheaper adamant metal rotor. Apparently steel. And apparently silicon steel. You aloof adored a ton of money. Next, although the rare-earths are expensive, they are activity into the stator, not on the rotor as with a acceptable abiding allurement motor, so you’re activity to be assiduity the electromagnets with almost babyish abiding magnets. Your alleged architecture has some issues with acoustic noise, but you feel that it’s advantageous to accompany this architecture because it’s the simplest and atomic big-ticket motor to build, yet awful able and able (especially with those rare-earths). Acceptable job!
So, the aboriginal addle allotment in the approach that Tesla has put a switched abhorrence motor in the Model 3 is the magnets. We apperceive they’re in there, and now we apperceive that one of the latest breakthroughs in motor architecture is the admittance of rare-earths in the stator of the abhorrence machine. This is huge. It has brought the abhorrence apparatus out of mothballs!
Another clue that the Model 3 motor is not application those rare-earths in a accepted permanent-magnet motor architecture is that the car does not do regen all the way bottomward to 0 afar per hour. For example, the Bolt has a accepted 3-phase PM motor which allows it to do regen to 0 MPH. I saw this for myself aftermost year aback I analysis collection a Bolt — you can stop afterwards applying the brakes. We’re calling this addle allotment #2.
Here’s addition one: The “dealer” sticker on the Model 3 in the showrooms announce a “Three phase, six pole, centralized abiding allurement motor.” The Tesla consecration motor is a 4 pole design, as are abounding EV motors. Why again a six pole motor? This is a advertence to the way the coils on the stator are active to assignment with the 3-phase ability (three abstracted ability legs). The afterpiece the agreement of the poles, the beneath time there may be for torque to abatement off. It may be Tesla’s way to added bland torque ripple. That’s addle allotment #3.
Puzzle allotment #4 is that assorted engineering/motor architecture publications are starting to allocution up the abhorrence apparatus (see commodity links below). And we are starting to see the abhorrence architecture arise in EVs, such as the Prius. Furthermore, UPS has appear that a switched abhorrence apparatus will be acclimated in a affairs to catechumen their agile to electric power. The aggregation is claiming its accomplishing of the abhorrence motor over added designs will abate charging times and access activity ability by up to 20% (the aggregation is break itself from the use of rare-earth magnets, though). And, in general, industry applications for adapted abhorrence motor designs are starting to pop. For example, in a contempo CleanTechnica article, Software Motor Aggregation (SMC) is declaring that its new afraid apparatus architecture — with what they are calling its own adaptation of “secret sauce” — will save 50% on activity costs over the accepted consecration motors in use at Walmart for HVAC, etc.
Finally, the motor in the Model 3 is absolutely abate than the Model S motor. In a contempo Jack Rickard EVTV video analytical the Model 3, Jack asserted that the Model 3 motor is absolutely abate than alike the abate advanced motor on the Model S. Yet achievement has not been anytime compromised. Some owners accept appear 0–60 times as quick as 4.8 abnormal in their Model 3. That of advance is due in allotment to the 1,000 lb of beneath weight than the S, but still let’s tentatively alarm this addle allotment #5.
Further abutment of allotment #5 comes from Rickard’s continuing comments while still beneath the car (Rickard, by the way, has gone as far bottomward the Tesla drivetrain aerial aperture as anyone I’ve anytime heard of). Extrapolating from EPA documents, Jack is calling the Model 3’s “battery-to-wheels loss” as 6 allotment credibility added able than the Model S (89% of electrical activity is adapted to advanced motion, compared to 83% for the S).
With the advance in abhorrence apparatus architecture these accomplished few years, we may be witnessing a sea change with commendations to the powertrain for the electric agent market. Given letters about the achievement of the Model 3, the appear jump in afar per kWh that owners are advertisement over above-mentioned Tesla models, forth with our 5 accessible addle pieces, it’s a reasonable bet that Tesla has able the abhorrence apparatus and in accomplishing so has pulled an engineering aerial out of its hat.
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Regardless of the exact motor design, Tesla has acutely hit it out of the esplanade with the Model 3’s powertrain. They gave their motor artist team, if not a bare check, a bare whiteboard, and the aggregation came up with a architecture acceptable not alone for an affordable electric car, but for the accessible Tesla Semi as well.
Note that Chief Artist Laskaris abutting Tesla afterwards the Model S had been developed. His arch charge accept been abounding of beginning account from aback he beforehand had co-founded a activity to architecture and body an able electric car. Like Straubel, Laskaris gravitated to Tesla already accepting a angle that the approaching was electric.
The 3’s motor architecture has additionally helped Tesla against its declared ambition of a 25% abridgement in genitalia calculation by accepting the motor do double-duty as a calefaction antecedent for abating the absorption battery. (Note: Tesla has been so afflicted with the aptitude advancing out of the academy Laskaris abounding in Greece that the aggregation has set up a babyish analysis centermost in the country.)
Although the use of a abhorrence apparatus in the Model 3 has yet to be verified, with the abrupt allocution from so abounding abode for so abounding applications of this motor tech, it’s adamantine to accept that Tesla would not accept a advanced row bench to this event. All in all, it is absolutely accessible 2018 will go bottomward as the year of the abhorrence motor. Welcome to the machine.
Understanding Abhorrence machines:Wiki articleMachineDesign.com articleCharged EV; A afterpiece attending at Switched Abhorrence MotorsCharged EV: A afterpiece Attending at Torque ripple
Adding PMs to abhorrence motorsIEEE document2011 white paper
Other:Model 3 breach bottomward by IngineerixHistory of the electric motor
This commodity has been hardly adapted afterwards publishing for accuracy.
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Steve Bakker is a semi-retired teacher, writer, and technologist who is currently casual time by attempting to cure his benightedness as to how electric cars work.
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