HEFT: EU research project for cheaper, sustainable electric motors

Eight European partners, of which five research facilities and three industrial partners, have joined forces to create a next-gen electric drive unit for mass-produced EVs. The goal is to create a synchronous motor that is more efficient, cheaper to produce, and, importantly, less dependent on rare earth materials from China.

The Mondragon University in Spain launched the HEFT project, which is entirely funded by the EU to the tune of €4 million. British drive systems specialist GKN Automotive has joined as an industry partner, responsible for manufacturing and assembly, with Magneti Ljubljana, Vyncolit, Ikerlan, the University of Nottingham, the University of Bologna, and the Belgian university KU Leuven as the other partners in the consortium.

More efficient, fewer materials

The goal of the project is to create an efficient synchronous electric motor with a permanent magnet, which, compared to the industry references VW ID.3 and Fiat 500e, will be 20% more power efficient, 28% cheaper, and will require 50-66% fewer materials.

Importantly, this new electric motor will use 60% fewer rare earth materials, with a plan to source over 80% of those from recycling in a circular process.

This is a critical element of the project, as the EU wants to reduce its dependence on China (which mines most of these metals like neodymium and dysprosium) in the electric vehicle manufacturing process.

No deadline has been set for the HEFT project, although it wants to establish the rare earth recycling process to deliver 20% of EU demand for these materials by 2030. There are plans for widespread OEM adoption, but no concrete goals are yet announced.


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