Elaphe's In-Wheel Drive Audi R8 boasts faster 0-60 than Audi's own R8 e-tron at 3.5 seconds
The team at Elaphe Propulsion Technologies has been working on electric vehicle motors for over a decade, and in recent years, they have shifted their focus from bespoke electric vehicle powertrain solutions for niche applications to ramping up manufacturing operations to support the volumes required for mass production. Currently, the company has established manufacturing operations in China with capacity to produce 20,000 units per year and is gathering the funding required to ramp that up over the next 2 years.
To that end, they have amassed a team of 100 employees working in R&D around the world that are laser focused on ramping up operations. To demonstrate just how agile the team is, it was a small crew of just 3 engineers that took a few in-wheel motors and used them to power up an Audi R8 supercar to put them to the test in real-world situations as a mule. Ironically, the bulk of the work in the conversion was focused on working around the vehicle’s internal combustion hardware. As you can see in the photos below, it’s essentially a stock R8 (including the tailpipes!), but with Elaphe’s In-Wheel Drive (IWD) motor system and batteries.
You may remember Elaphe’s tech from the beautiful BMW X6 it showed off a few months back. The new fully electric, in-wheel drive Audi supercar represents the next generation of testing Elaphe’s production-ready products in performance test mules.
The vehicle is still in a very early state of development and was assembled to validate whether Elaphe’s new in-wheel electric motors can deliver high end performance. The early results, which can be seen in the short video below, demonstrate that Elaphe’s L1500 in-wheel motor configuration can propel the electrified Audi R8 from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in just over 3.5 seconds.
Comparing this to Audi’s R8 e-tron concept, which went 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, Elaphe’s result of 3.5 seconds demonstrates just how promising the technology is. The team is happy with the initial results, but is looking to post sub-3 second numbers after some tuning of the system, which would make it faster than Tesla’s Model 3 Performance configuration which boasts a 0–60 mph time of 3.5 seconds. Granted, one is a supercar and one is a 4-door sedan, but it’s an impressive feat just the same. The company wasn’t trying to break any records with the supercar, but they are pushing to raise the bar for in-wheel powered cars, where previous record-holder was their BMW X6.
Elaphe’s four in-wheel motors put down a combined 6,000 Nm of torque and 440 kW of peak power. All of the power electronics, control, and motors used in the R8 were developed and built in-house. That alone speaks to their technical chops and to the potential for electric motors to be utilized in higher performance vehicles. The installation in the Audi R8 isn’t even fully tuned yet and it’s already laying down impressive performance that is in the ballpark of its internal combustion predecessor.
The team built up their version of Audi’s e-tron supercar as a platform for them to validate and tune their in-wheel motors in a higher performance platform. They are using it to put the final polish on their control algorithms, torque vectoring, intelligent data generation (gathering data about how to respond to changes in road characteristics), and regenerative ABS testing.
Elaphe Propulsion’s configuration puts the motors into each of the wheels and gets rid of any gearboxes or transmissions, with the motors directly powering each of the wheels. The motors are tiny, even compared to modern electric vehicle motors and look like a pair of rings, with the entire motor coming in at just 2 centimeters thick and 6 centimeters wide. Considering how much power they’re laying down, that’s revolutionary by itself.
The unique direct drive configuration Elaphe specializes in is actually the highest power direct drive EV in the world, for the time being. As motors, batteries and supporting technologies continue to evolve, more and more records like this will fall as the technology continues to climb up and to the right.
In-wheel motor technology is not new, but it is new to passenger vehicle applications, with Tesla continuing to push forward — and to lead — in a more traditional electrified axle type deployment. Elaphe believes that it is working on and building the next generation of electric vehicle powertrain technologies, as it is superior to Tesla’s configuration in a few key ways.
Elaphe’s direct-drive in-wheel motors represent the highest performance in-wheel motors in the world. Speaking in terms of data, the L1500 in-wheel motors provide the highest torque density in their electric motors and the lightest motors in the world.
In-wheel motor technology differs from traditional electric motors in that it eliminates the need to integrate the motors with an existing powertrain. Instead, it emulates nature and moves the motors directly to the point of use, much like human muscles, which attach directly to the points in the body where action is needed. This eliminates the efficiency losses and latency that come with longer, more complex powertrains. No need to spin up gearboxes, differentials, or driveshafts. Elaphe’s motors drive the wheels directly for maximum efficiency and responsiveness.
The road ahead is fraught with challenges as Elaphe seeks to move beyond its status as a fringe Tier 1 supplier into the mainstream of electric vehicle component supply. It is pushing forward to develop its own electric vehicle powertrain in the hopes of becoming in indispensable partner for automotive OEMs looking to quickly and efficiently electrify their vehicles.
Developing a new technology and bringing it to the masses is no easy task, just ask Elon Musk and what has grown into an army of 40,000 Tesla employees. Building new prototypes like the Roadster and the Semi is one thing, even for a full-fledged electric vehicle company like Tesla, but shifting from exciting, photo ready, track taming prototype into production is a completely different story that comes with its own 7 levels of hell.
With its first production lines in China already up and running, the team at Elaphe is well on their way to solving the challenges of mass production and admittedly has a less challenging road ahead as they will not have to build solutions to deliver entire vehicles, just their new motors and supporting electric vehicle tech.
We’ll be keeping an eye on Elaphe Propulsion Technologies in the coming months and years as they ramp up operations. These new in-wheel motors might not be in any production vehicles today, but the results and progress made by the team at Elaphe make a compelling case for them as the next generation in electric vehicle motor technology.
The value proposition is especially relevant for newcomer vehicle OEMs looking to compete with the big players in the EV game and need a competitive advantage. The inherent advantages of Elaphe’s in-wheel motors that not only offer superior performance, they also allow customers to build an electric vehicle with a lot less constraints.
Elaphe Propulsion Technologies will be exhibiting at Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo Europe 2019 at stand 241.