Wheel-hub motor maker Elaphe moving on from Lordstown

DETROIT — For Elaphe Propulsion Technologies, the Slovenian company that built the wheel-hub motors for the ill-fated Lordstown Endurance, the truck’s failure is not the end of the road.

Luka Ambrozic, Elaphe’s chief commercial officer, says the company expects to be back on a regular production vehicle by the end of the decade with its lightweight, powerful motors that are mounted directly in the wheel.

While the Lordstown experience was disappointing – the company built fewer than 50 Endurance pickups – Elaphe goes into the history books as the first company to put wheel-hub motors on the road. Ambrozic said what Elaphe learned with Lordstown will help the company as it works with other automakers.

“The collaboration was really good. Lordstown managed to put together a car in record time. From our perspective [on the motors] we did a really good job. We did more on the control side, and that’s where we are progressing most,” said Ambrozic, who spoke to Automotive News on Tuesday at the Battery Show in Novi, Mich.

Around 800 exhibitors are at the three-day show in suburban Detroit displaying virtually every component found in electric vehicles. But there are not many manufacturers of wheel-hub motors.

While the solution looks elegant – placing the motor right in the wheel eliminates a lot of parts – it creates other problems. Hub motors are heavy and can affect handling, and keeping the motors sealed from the elements, lubricated and running at the proper temperature is an engineering challenge.

With Lordstown in Elaphe’s rearview mirror, the company is moving on, Ambrozic says.

  • Aptera, a California startup trying to market a three-wheel commuter vehicle, is testing an Elaphe wheel-hub motor.
  • Elaphe engineers are working on the next-generation motors that will weigh less and create more power.
  • The company aims to deliver not just motors but complete plug-and-play systems, so Elaphe is developing controls for its motors.

Ambrozic would not name the company’s next customers, but he dropped some hints. Elaphe is working more with established automakers. And wheel-hub motors can enable high-performance cars to handle in unique ways as well as deliver blistering 0-to-60 times.

Elaphe views the Lordstown experience as a positive one.

Says Ambrozic: “What we learned from Lordstown is that you have to build a vehicle as a holistic thing. That’s usually one of the drawbacks of working with big companies. They have compartmentalized specializations.

“Working with startups taught us how important is it to have all the teams working on one vehicle. What we learned is that while you can do a platform that has distributed drive, but if you don’t use those benefits very well at the vehicle level and don’t exploit them, then the value for the customer may not be as big.”

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