Ohio State joins $175 Million ARPA-E project to help revolutionize electric vehicle machine manufacturing

Posted: April 25, 2022

The Ohio State University joined a $175 million program launched by the U.S. ARPA-E  aimed at strengthening national energy efficiency.

Ohio State will receive over $2.4 million to fund its proposal, “Vehicle Traction Electric Machines Enabled by Novel Composite Magnetic Powder Material and Electrophoretic Deposition Insulation Material.”

Julia Zhang, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), leads Ohio State’s involvement, partnering with General Electric Global Research and Ford Motor Company on the three-year initiative. Co-leads include Ohio State ECE Professor Jin Wang and Anthony Luscher, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

The Ohio State team operates via the Center for High Performance Power Electronics, which offers deep energy experience. Zhang spent 15 years’ doing design, modeling and control on electric machines and drives, plus years of automotive industry experience on electric drivetrain while at Ford Motor Company. Wang offers 20 years’ leadership experience on electric drives and power electronics.

According to the International Energy Agency, 2.8 million light-duty electric vehicles were sold in 2020 globally, creating a $3.4 Billion market for light-duty electric machines. A 15 to 20 percent annual increase is expected over the next decade.

Zhang said the goal is to advance electric machine technologies for a wide range of industry applications, including national electrified vehicles, renewable energy generation, energy storage, and general purpose industrial variable speed drives.

They key link is adding two new innovative magnetic and insulation materials being developed by GE Research. Ohio State and Ford will then design, build, and test a traction machine prototype using the new materials. The next stage is commercialization of the technologies from the project.


As a result of the new materials, Zhang said, torque density of electric machines could increase significantly.

“We hope the new materials will help us improve torque density by 40 percent, leading to significant advancements in creating smaller and lighter machines than ever before,” Zhang said.

If successful, she said, the impact of the project could then revolutionize the design concept and manufacturing of the entire electric machine industry. This means the reduction of manufacturing costs and scrap metal waste, and consuming significantly less energy in the process.

Led by ARPA-E, the OPEN 2021 program funds 68 research and development projects prioritizing high-impact, high risk technologies that support novel approaches to clean challenges. The selected projects span 22 states and are coordinated at universities, national laboratories, and private companies.

“Universities, companies, and our national labs are doubling down on advancing clean energy technology innovation and manufacturing in America to deliver critical energy solutions from renewables to fusion energy to tackle the climate crisis,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s investments show our commitment to empowering innovators to develop bold plans to help America achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, create clean energy good-paying jobs and strengthen our energy independence.”

“ARPA-E’s OPEN program is all about bringing forth ideas that could change the energy landscape of this country. We look forward to working with the OPEN 2021 selectees announced to solve critical energy issues and develop transformative technologies,” said Dr.Jennifer Gerbi, ARPA-E Deputy Director for Technology.

The project will support two Ph.D. students and two undergraduate students for three years.

"We are inviting talented undergraduate students who are interested in electric machine and power electronics technologies to join us on this endeavor," Zhang said.

ARPA-E rescheduled the 2022 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit to May 23-25 in-person at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Colorado.


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