Off to the races: Allied Motion helps design motor for U. of Waterloo hybrid-electric F1 car

By Phil Lucia | Nov 23, 2015

In June 2015, Allied Motion received an intriguing request: the University of Waterloo’s hybrid-electric team wanted help with the design of the motor for its Formula One-style racing vehicle.

Located in southern Ontario province in Canada, roughly 70 miles west of Toronto, the University of Waterloo is known for its cutting-edge research — the school has been named for 24 consecutive years the most innovative university in Canada by the Maclean’s reputational survey. The invitation to work on a unique and technically challenging project was warmly accepted by Allied Motion.

What is Waterloo Hybrid-Electric?

waterlooteamNearly 60 students from the University of Waterloo (shown in the photo) were tasked with designing an electric-powered Formula One-style vehicle. A Formula One, or F1, car is described as “a single-seat, open cockpit, open-wheel racing car with substantial front and rear wings, and an engine positioned behind the driver…modern-day Formula One cars are constructed from composites of carbon fibre and similar ultra-lightweight materials. The minimum weight permissible is 702 kg (1,548 lb), including the driver but not fuel.”

Dozens of professional F1 Grand Prix races are held on circuits throughout the world. The Waterloo vehicle, however, will compete in specific student competitions, including the SAE IEEE Formula Hybrid on May 2-5, 2016 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Hanover, New Hampshire, the Formula North on June 2-5, 2016 in Barrie, Ontario, and the Formula SAE Lincoln on June 15-18, 2016 at Lincoln Airpark in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The purpose of this project is to allow students to learn how to solve business, engineering and technology challenges through creativity, collaboration and competition. The Waterloo F1 vehicle will be judged with a heavy emphasis on innovation and efficiency that will help prepare the students for real-world engineering demands.

Who is leading this project?

Waterloo students Rob Waugh, Kelvin Tse, and Jake Kononiuk are responsible for the integration of the Allied Motion motor into the vehicle. Rob is responsible for the gears, bearings, shafts and wheel hub design. Kelvin is managing the traction controller, launch control and sensory inputs. Jake is the lead for motor selection, thermal management, motor mounting and dynamometer testing.

On the Allied Motion side, our team from the Tulsa, Oklahoma office is leading this project because of their expertise in high-performance custom BLDC brushless direct current) motors and rotary optical encoders, specifically the torque motor technology, needed by the Waterloo Hybrid-Electric Team.

Phillip Lucia, former design and project engineer and current business development manager for the Tulsa division of Allied Motion Technologies, Inc., has provided application support to Waterloo throughout the design process. From the start, Phillip has helped the student team to understand Allied’s technology and potential with Waterloo Hybrid-Electric. He also worked to develop the Waterloo team’s unique motor design requirements as part of the first phase design of the motor.

wheelassemblySenior Motor Design Engineer and designer of the Megaflux torque motor series, Gary Gerber, applied his 34 years of experience and extensive knowledge of custom torque motors to guarantee the best solution for the team. The result is shown mounted into the Waterloo FI's wheel-motor assembly in the photo. The Megaflux motor itself can be seen in the background.

How are Allied Motion engineers helping the Waterloo Team?

When asked how he chose the motor for this year’s electric car, Jake noted that it was a process of elimination. “Brushed DC motors, synchronous induction motors, and brushless DC (BLDC) motors were all considered,” he said, “but the BLDC was selected for the low electrical noise and high efficiency." Once the Waterloo team had narrowed their search parameters, they determined that the Allied Motion Megaflux series of torque motors best fit the bill in terms of required specs, packaging and efficiency.

But our engineers at Allied Motion didn’t simply pull a motor off the shelf and ship it off to the Great White North. “The selling point was Allied’s willingness to work with us to tweak the current motor series to best meet our needs,” Jake noted. “We are very sensitive to weight, and Allied was able to create an in-between size that provided the power and torque requirements, while minimizing weight. A big shout out to Phil Lucia for all his efforts, and time in conference calls and running simulations to customize these motors for Waterloo Hybrid-Electric. He has been an awesome person to work with and has been extremely helpful!

The Waterloo team hopes to have the motor in hand by January 2016 in order to have the maximum amount of prep time for the New Hampshire races in May 2016

Tomorrow’s motion control leaders?

awardpresentBesides the obvious fun of F1 engineering and Waterloo’s impressive track record of wins on the collegiate racing circuit, Phillip explained that another plus to working with the Waterloo Hybrid-Electric team is talent identification. Some of that potential talent might just have appeared with Phil (at the left) in the photo showing some Waterloo team members displaying one of the award presentations they received.

“Collegiate engineering competitions are generally great resources for finding tomorrow’s technical leadership,” he said. “The university’s proximity to our Allied Motion Canada division – where we design our superior motion control electronics and software – also helped in our decision to support the bright young engineers of the Waterloo Hybrid-Electric team.”

Also worth pointing out: the Waterloo team’s work will help Allied Motion, as well. All of Waterloo’s testing and performance data will be shared with Allied Motion for knowledge gain and future development. Regardless of what happens on the race track — and we’re rooting for you, Waterloo! — this project is a win-win.

For more information on Waterloo Hybrid-Electric, watch this year’s promotional video.

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