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Jens Olschewski and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Xiangfan Fang from the Chair of Lightweight Vehicle Construction at the University of Siegen with the prototype of the new rear axle and the test vehicle.

Clean Transport

New Rear Axle Design Creates More Range For Smaller EVs

A new rear axle concept for small EVs has been developed by scientists at the Chair of Lightweight Vehicle Construction at the University of Siegen that can increase the range of a small EV by 35%. The new rear axle concept increases the available space for the battery in the body and with the new battery space, it can offer up to 71 miles in additional range.

While the limited range has been an issue with the smaller EVs due to its limited available battery space, the new rear axle may solve the limited space problem for EV manufacturers. The project has been headed up by Professor Dr.-Ing. Xiangfan Fang and his team as part of the “E-MLTA” research project (development and testing of a space-saving multi-link torsion axle) together with Ford, VW, and other project partners.

“Our idea was actually very simple: we ‘turned’ the rear axle and moved the axle’s cross member to the rear, towards the trunk,” says Prof. Fang. “This increases the area available under the car for the battery at the front.” In order to maintain the car’s usual driving characteristics, however, the Siegen vehicle manufacturer had to make further adjustments to the axle — several links and joints, among other things, to ensure that the car behaves normally when braking and does not go upside down.

“We first designed the new axle on the computer and integrated it virtually into the body in order to be able to precisely calculate and simulate the properties,” explains project employee Jens Olschewski.

To use it as a test car, the scientists used a Ford Fiesta that was made available by their project partner Ford. The axle was implemented in hardware with the project partners from the industry and installed in the Ford Fiesta. To mimic the weight of the battery, heavy metal plates were placed under the floor of the gas engine. The car was then equipped with extensive measurement technology and tested extensively by experts on the test bench and on a test track at Ford in Belgium.

The research team then carried out test drives with all employees of the project participating at the traffic training area in Olpe. The comfort and safety of the vehicle were maintained during the tests, but the driving dynamics of the car performed slightly worse than cars with a conventional rear axle in some respects.

“But the difference is so small that we can certainly compensate for it by further adjustments,” Prof. Fang is convinced. Representatives of the two project partners Ford and VW were impressed by the results overall, and both companies were “very interested” in the new rear axle.

With all the data the scientists gathered from the tests, Prof. Fang and his team of researchers are working on further improving the new axle concept. The group is in discussions with several car manufacturers with the aim of installing the rear axle as standard in small electric cars. “We would be very proud if, in a few years, e-cars drove around with our axle,” says Prof. Fang.

Along with VW and Ford, there were several companies involved in the project — Mubea, Vorwerk Autotec, Schmedthenke Werkzeugbau, and CP Autosport GmbH were also involved in the E-MLTA project. The Technical University of Cologne was also on board as a further project partner. Also in addition to Prof. Dr.-Ing. Xiangfan Fang and Jens Olschewski, also involved were Dr. Timo Schlichting and Tobias Niessing.

Of the 1.6 million euros in funding, 530,000 euros went to the University of Siegen. The project was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) NRW with 530,000 euros.

Source: Universität Siegen

Photo: Andreas Göbel

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