Hybrid technology to be introduced in heavy machinery – new technology provides improved cost-effectiveness

A new permanent magnet electric motor with a built-in two-speed gearbox has been invented in a project carried out by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and Saimaa University of Applied Sciences. The invention makes it possible to achieve both a high ground speed and a high traction force in heavy machinery, such as tractors and wheel loaders.

The invention combines a two-speed gearbox and an electric motor into a single, compact element. There is a gear within the electric motor, but customers only see an electric motor with an exceptionally vast operating range.

"The invention combines a mechanical and an electric transmission system in one component. This has never been done before," says Professor Jussi Sopanen.

The new motor has clear benefits compared to the technology that is currently on the market. The operating range of the small motor is so vast that no compromises need to be made in the sizing. Manufacturing the motor is also less expensive than manufacturing a separate electric motor and a gearbox. Furthermore, the motor provides users with the benefits of hybrid technology: it significantly reduces operating costs compared to traditional mechanical or hydraulic transmission systems.

"In some cases, vehicles need to move fast like cheetahs and be strong like elephants. Without major oversizing, electric transmission systems implemented using current technology have not been able to meet these requirements. Our motor provides sufficient speed and a lot of power. You could call it a cheetah/elephant hybrid," says Lecturer Simo Sinkko, one of the developers of the new innovation.

Electric transmission components for such needs have not been commercially available.

According to Sopanen, the hybrid technology and electric drives used in the motor will inevitably become more common in heavy machinery. For manufacturers, significant drivers include stricter emission regulations and the need to reduce fuel and maintenance costs. Customers also have increasingly high performance requirements for machines.

The prototype of the motor is currently at the LUT Laboratory of Electrical Engineering. A vehicle simulation model has also been developed to show potential customers how the motor functions. Simulation enables the developers to test the device in a concrete manner and provide evidence of cost savings and performance enhancements. Some companies have already tested the virtual environment, and the initial feedback has been positive.

The challenge is the conservative nature of the machine industry. According to Sinkko, the industry knows that a change is currently ongoing and that the new invention represents the machine manufacturing of the future. However, manufacturers want to take their time and monitor the market and its developments.

"The industry has decades of experience of doing things in a specific manner. Change resistance is normal in these circumstances, but manufacturers have not denied the ongoing change or the benefits of the new technology."

The new technology is also needed for a more urgent reason.

"There is constant discussion about the fact that traffic should be emission-free by 2030 or 2050. Whatever the deadline, the question we should ask is will we be able to meet it if we don't start taking bigger steps now. This invention could provide a concrete solution to the problem," says Project Researcher Paula Immonen.

In order to commercialise the product, the researchers involved in the project have established a company called Egear Oy. Next, they hope to find a vehicle manufacturing partner and build a functional machine, perhaps through a new research project. The ultimate goal is to begin the mass production of the commercialised product and to achieve turnover growth.

Further information

Jussi Sopanen, Professor, LUT, jussi.sopanen@lut.fi, +358 40 584 8522

Simo Sinkko, Lecturer, simo.sinkko@saimia.fi, +358 400 269 823