New 2-in-1 Electric Motor Promises More Efficient and Cooler Electric Cars

As anyone who lives in a warm climate will tell you, air conditioning is a must in any car, electric or otherwise. But just as running the air conditioning system in a gasoline or diesel-powered car can reduce your car’s gas mileage, running the AC in an electric car can often have a dramatic effect on your car’s real-world range.

Since mass-produced electric cars like the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt launched in 2011, we’ve seen a variety of innovative ways that electric automakers have tried to make air conditioning systems more efficient, from the use of ultra-efficient heat pumps to specially-designed dual-zone climate control systems that can be selectively turned off to save energy.

The new 2-in-1 compressor should make electric cars more efficient and help them go further per charge.

The new 2-in-1 compressor should make electric cars more efficient and help them go further per charge.

But now a team of academics from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have successfully finished work on a new type of electric car motor which operates as not only a source of motive power but also keeps you cool too.

By combining the motor and air conditioning system into one unit, the researchers said they were not only able to save physical space within an electric car, but also help save power too.

That’s because the air compressor is able to tap excess energy from the car’s electric motor in a far more efficient manner than it would if it were a separate unit, making it possible to use kinetic energy from the car’s motion to run the air compressor on braking — a kind of regenerative braking-fed air conditioning, if you will.

The design, built jointly between NTU and DLR, is so unique that it has been awarded a Best Originality Award by the TECO Green Tech International Contest held in Taiwan, beating off nineteen other entries from universities like Boston University and UCLA.

While the combined electric motor and air conditioning unit won’t save a huge amount of energy by virtue of system efficiencies alone, the team behind the design say that when the space vacated by a traditional air compressor is filled with battery packs, the total savings could equate to a fifteen to twenty per cent increase in electric vehicle design.

“By integrating the refrigerant compressor directly into the electric motor, we save components, weight and cost. Simultaneously, the more regenerative braking part of the kinetic energy is passed directly to the refrigerant compressor and thus the efficiency is further increased,” said Dr. Michael Schier from DLR’s Institute of Vehicle Concepts.

“For electric vehicles, the air conditioning uses a lot of electrical energy, thereby cutting down the range of electric cars by up to 50 per cent. To increase the energy efficiency and therefore the range of electric cars, the thermal management and the integration of additional functions into existing powertrain components play a major role.”

If the idea of building integrated components into an electric motor sounds familiar, you’d be right. Tesla Motors already uses an integrated motor design in its popular Model S electric car, housing the inverter electronics used to drive the motor itself behind the tiny yet powerful electric motor used to give the car its legendary performance.

Meanwhile, Nissan and Mitsubishi have both developed integrated Inverter motor electronics housed in the same unit, helping to cut down the space used by electric car components and most importantly, produce a more efficient and lightweight electric car.

As with any improvement in the laboratory, it’ll take a while before the 2-in-1 motor and air conditioner will make it into any production vehicles, but anything that can help us go further on a charge is, in our opinion, a great thing.


Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.


Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInDigg thisShare on RedditEmail this to someonePin on Pinterest

Related News

  • CDspeed

    Excellent, but I wish when these press releases come out that the mentioned technology was already on its way to being tested for production. I understand that batteries take a little more time, but this should be something every automaker with an electric car in production should be interested in now.

  • The Smart ED uses the majority of the gas car platform and replaces the ICE and gas tank so the same assembly line can produce electric and gas models.nnnThe AC compressor in the ED is louder than anything else in the car, and it “breaks the serenity” of an otherwise silent driving experience.nnnI personally thought “wouldn’t it be nice if the big 50kW motor behind me could also be used to run the AC compressor…so it’s an idea that is not earth shattering, but is a reasonable approach to successive improvement in EV’s.nnnI also like the Nissan Leaf offering a heat pump on the premium models which is highly advantageous for climates like Ontario Canada (and Northern Europe) which stays cold for 4+ months of the year..

  • Martin WINLOW

    I’m sorry, but this is patent nonsense. If you are using energy on braking to run this compressor, that energy is not going back into the battery and therefore will adversely affect range anyway. Also, what if you aren’t doing any braking? How is the compressor going to run to keep the A/C going? Either the author has made a very poor attempt at understanding this ‘brakethrough’ or the idea is pants! And as for the A/C using 50% of an EVs power, that, too is ridiculous – unless the car is sat on a highway for hours on end going no-where in which case the A/C won’t work because the motor isn’t running! Ye Gods! Has anyone with half a brain actually thought this ‘idea’ (rot) through?nnAnd anyway, air conditioning is NOT a ‘must’ in a warm climate. In a HOT one, maybe. We all drove around for 60 years in cars without A/C and few of us died from doing so! Utter twaddle. Next!

  • Tom

    This seems like a bad idea to me.n1. You are encouraging people to brake more which is inefficient.n2. If you are sitting in traffic for a long time and your motor is not turning and you aren’t using brakes then it will get pretty hot.