Sunday, October 27, 2013

KLD Brings Electric City Car Concept to U.S. with Ultra-Efficient New Motor Design

After driving small electric vehicles like the Toyota i-Road concept car a few weeks back in Japan, we’d be remiss if we didn’t cover smaller brands, even though city cars and vehicles designed for municipalities aren’t usually our thing. Particularly promising is a Texas-based company called KLD, which manufactures clean energy solutions like windmills and elevator systems.
Its latest system is called oneDrive and is a completely new take on how to make an electric motor. Rather than using wound copper wire to create a magnetic generator, the KLD system implements fixed magnetic boron-silicon-steel alloy stator blocks that are designed to generate low-end torque, run cooler, require almost no maintenance, and use less energy at higher steady speeds. Still, “higher” is a relative word here; the KLD system is designed to go up to about 50 mph, and it will be limited to 25 mph in the U.S. market, at least in smaller commercial vehicles due to crash regulation requirements above that speed
But steady speeds are typically what do EVs in, as it’s a constant drain; stop-go driving allows the motors to run cooler and oftentimes pick up energy through braking. Speaking of braking, KLD says that its regenerative braking system runs at an efficiency in the 90-percent range. To do that in many passenger cars, you have to baby it. KLD developed its own energy management system with the help of Samsung, which supplies its battery parts.
Currently, KLD sells a version of its electric system in a scooter in Malaysia with what’s been great success for the company, and it’s readying its Cenntro Kombi electric truck that will have an equivalent of 255 mpg and a 45-mile driving range. We took out a working chassis prototype for a quick spin and found it sufficiently quick for its intended purpose.
But we wonder: How scalable is this technology? Will it be able to be put into an automotive application for a real car that has to manage more sensors that any normal person would be able to count? How would the battery management software fare with more than just 6.4 kWh to manage? KLD says it can develop its in-wheel motor systems to generate as much as 700 pound-feet of torque for an automotive application, which would be right up there with a Mercedes-Benz G65 AMG. If the patented technology could make good on all the promises, it could be a truly better electric motor system.
Alas, it’s relegated to scooters and small commercial vehicles at this point. It’ll probably make its way to more city vehicle-oriented applications as well, which could put a real challenge up to a company like Toyota, should they decide to compete in the same markets. The KLD system holds a lot of promise from a technological standpoint of truly revolutionizing how to make an electric motor for automotive applications and manage its energy use. And it’s from a Texas-based startup at that. The questions we have are if it will be able to make good on its promises and if any bigger car manufacturers will be willing to give KLD a chance to license its technology.