No one can dispute that people and goods need to be transported, but more and more of us have reached the conclusion that the price of vehicle transportation—in terms of climate impacts and other negative environmental effects—has become too high. Interest in more environmentally sound vehicles has increased, and vehicle manufacturing is undergoing changes along with regulatory requirements and consumers’ willingness to reduce fuel costs while contributing to a cleaner environment. The primary focus of the automotive industry is on improving existing internal combustion engines, but there also needs to be a focus on the development of motors that can run on renewable fuels.

Using metal powder to make motor parts gives an advantageous combination of low weight, compact=

Höganäs AB, based in southern Sweden, plays an important role in the development of environmentally adapted vehicles by supplying metal specialized metal powders which are used to reduce weight and fuel consumption in engine components and transmissions. The company also develops heat-resistant products that can withstand the higher temperatures reached by ethanol and biodiesel engines.

As a pilot project in the development of eco-efficient motors, Höganäs has set its sights on the most environmentally sound of all vehicles: the bicycle. The traditional bicycle is of course one option, but a bike with a small electric motor is highly coveted in China and other Asian countries, where there is enormous demand for cheap, flexible transportation. This is why Höganäs has chosen to launch its new motor concept at the World Expo in Shanghai.

Life-cycle thinking

The new electric motors from Höganäs will benefit the environment while at the same time saving wear on the rider’s knees. Metal powder gives the motors an advantageous combination of low weight, compact design and high performance.

Combining high power and low weight with a modular design, the Höganäs motor is suitable for use in a wide range of applications.

Combining high power and low weight with a modular design, the Höganäs motor is suitable for use in a wide range of applications.

“Since there’s high demand for combined performance and cost, we chose electric bicycles when we introduced our new concept motor,” says Höganäs  President and CEO Alrik Danielson. “We’re convinced that we have a unique product. It’s lighter than other electric motors, and mounting it on our electric bike gives it a range of more than 7 kilometers. It’s a highly efficient and compact motor for direct power transmission without gears. By combining the high power and low weight with a modular design, the motor is suitable for use in a wide range of applications. It is suitable for light vehicles such as mopeds and scooters, as well as pumps, fans and generators.”

Danielson says the company will license the design to contract manufacturers for production. “Throughout the development process, we have tried to minimize the motor’s environmental impact,” he adds. “The stator uses metal powder made from recycled scrap. The motor used less magnets and copper wire than in comparable, traditional electric motors. And it’s designed for efficient recycling.”

Resource-efficient technology

Powder metallurgy offers several advantages over traditional technologies. Designing with metal powders can help achieve material savings of 20 to 30 percent, reducing overall environmental impacts. Metal powder technology also often reduces production times, since a part made from powdered metal usually requires only minimal processing.

And powder metallurgy production is energy efficient: energy consumption for component manufacturing is about half compared with traditional technologies. About two-thirds of Höganäs’ production of metal powders is based on recycled scrap, which of course lowers resource consumption and environmental impact.

Article published in May 2010