Ford and German automotive component company, Schaeffler, demonstrated a concept today in Belgium that could allow for unprecedented practicality in sub-compact cars.
“Looking forward, we have the opportunity to scope out the vehicle’s capabilities and how we might overcome some of the challenges presented by implementing the technology,” Pim van der Jagt, Ford’s director of research and advanced engineering in Europe said.
The system, housed in a Fiesta hatchback, uses two electric motors — one to power each of the rear wheels — without using space under the hood. By relocating the car’s propulsion system with in-wheel motors, Ford says it can use the space a two-person car would currently use to transport four. Space efficient vehicles like this will become increasingly important as city populations grow more dense. By 2050, the number of people living in cities globally is expected to increase from 3.4 to 6.4 billion.
“This highly integrated wheel-hub drive makes it possible to rethink the city car without restrictions, and could be a key factor in new vehicle concepts and automobile platforms in the future,” said Peter Gutzmer, chief technical officer, Schaeffler.
But this concept uses a Fiesta rather than a vehicle designed around the technology. While it can demonstrate the propulsion system’s capability, it can’t fully realize the space savings Ford describes.
That’s why the next step is to develop two drivable vehicles by 2015 that would better use the technology — something Ford will carry out in partnership with Continental, Schaeffler and two German universities: RWTH Aachen and the University of Applied Sciences, Regensburg.