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Integrated AC and Drive Motor to Improve EV Car Range

Tesla S Driving through Desert
Tesla S Driving through Desert

Imagine driving a Tesla S at a scorching 112 degrees (44o Celsius) at the Vegas Strip on your way back to LA. Surely, that would be the best time to turn on the A/C.  Unfortunately, you’d think twice lest you run out of steam (or charge) in the middle of the Mojave Desert.  Based on a study conducted by Mitsubishi Motors, an EV’s cruise range drops by a humongous 30-48% when you turn on the car’s air conditioning.  Surely such a prospect will make you break out in a sweat more than the summer heat.

Engine concept

This is a problem that a Singaporean-German university research team tried a solve.  Instead of packing an additional battery or improving battery storage efficiency, they designed an electric motor that integrates an air-conditioning compressor to extend range between charges. The design integrates the air compressor and motor drive, simplifying the motor design while improving energy regeneration during braking. This way, battery use drops by at least 3% and the energy capture from regenerative braking improves by 8%.  Kinetic energy from braking goes directly into the compressor, rather than converting it into electricity, hence reducing losses from such energy conversions.

The motor designed by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) PhD student N. Satheesh Kumar, has the potential to improve cruise range by as much as 20% by using available battery technology. For the Tesla S, this translates to an additional 300 miles per charge, enough for you take a gamble on another return trip from Beverly Hills to Las Vegas.

The invention recently bagged the Best Originality Award in the TECO Green Tech International Contest in Taiwan, besting 19 entries from all around the world including Boston University, UCLA, Waseda University and universities from China and Russia. The system was developed with the support of Dr. Michael Schier of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). Further tests and engine improvements will be conducted at the DLR with the aim of eventually developing a commercial model. The team is applying for a Proof-Of-Concept (POC) grant from the Singaporean government and will develop the prototype, test bedding and refinement at DLR.

Hopefully the engine will be out soon so we need not get cold feet when making an interstate trip.

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