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In-Wheel Motor Electric Ford Fiesta Previews Future Urban Vehicles

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When automakers test prototypes and new technologies, it's often done under the skin of an existing vehicle--partly to save costs, partly to avoid the gaze of prying spy photographers.

That's why the Ford Fiesta you see here looks nothing special, save for some basic wheels and its not-for-U.S. three-door body.

Under the skin though, it features the latest in-wheel electric motor technology from Ford and partner Schaeffler.

In fact, this Fiesta is hugely different from the regular gasoline models, and exists solely to help the companies develop the future of urban mobility and smaller, more agile city cars.

For a start, it's a full battery-electric vehicle with no conventional engine. Second, those batteries don't simply drive a central drive motor feeding its power to the wheels, but drive two in-wheel electric motors instead.

And thirdly, those motors are actually mounted in the rear wheels in this particular example, rather than the usual driven fronts. Ford says all the components needed for drive, deceleration and driver assistance are integrated into the wheel hub.

Regular electric systems are relatively space-efficient compared to those found in conventional vehicles--it's why many electric cars have flat floors, and why the Telsa Model S has two trunks--but in-wheel motors take that a step further, freeing even more space for passengers and luggage.

Ford and Schaeffler are heavily emphasizing the urban benefits of such a car, particularly the potential for perpendicular parking (trying saying that one after a few alcoholic beverages...).

In-wheel motors with a particular hub design would allow all four wheels to turn at 90 degrees, making curbside parking a cinch even in the busiest cities.

By freeing up interior space, cars themselves could become more space-efficient, while getting smaller to aid congestion.

“We face challenges that will have to be addressed through time, thought and investment,” explained Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s global trends and futuring manager. “It is by starting to look at how we might meet those challenges through research projects such as eWheelDrive, that we ensure that we embrace a future of choice and not a future of constraint.”

It certainly has us excited--and while we're unlikely to see an actual electric Fiesta any time soon, this particular example could influence Ford's small vehicles many years in the future.

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Comments (5)
  1. "all four wheels to turn at 45 degrees, " Think you meant 90°. Much more useful

    I think the Hiriko is much cooler.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeUZVUNq0w8

    It can do "O-turns"
     
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  2. I did indeed. It's been a busy few days...
     
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  3. When those wheels turn forty five or ninety degrees there won't be much room left between them for luggage or passenger space.
    This ability will cancel out the packaging benefit.
     
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  4. Obvious problems: huge unsprung weight. Would need space-age tire and wheel to compensate, or radical suspension engineering, or both. Changing a flat would be quite problematic.

    Bigger problem is that you have all these electronics and high voltage wires in the filthy wheelwell getting sprayed constantly. The bright side of this idea is that you could hybrid-ize anything and everything, even old cars if you could incorporate battery and controllers.

    Also there are no photos of 90degrees steering.
     
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  5. So far this is still a prototype that you are looking at, unsprung weight, suspension problems, changing tire difficulties and other problems should have been considered by Ford and Schaeffler. They are not trying to convince you to get this ewheel right now by hiding all its potential problems. I have heard that both companies have teamed up with Continental, RWTH Aachen and the University of Applied Sciences, Regensburg for the project and 2 EV prototypes based on the ewheel hub drive is expected by 2015, so lets just be a little bit patient and look forward to what they will be offering.
     
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