The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced a $2.7- million investment in UK-based QinetiQ’s electric hub-drive technology.
QinetiQ’s hub-drive replaces gearboxes, differentials, and drive shafts with compact electric motors contained completely within the wheels, significantly reducing the overall weight of a vehicle.
QinetiQ is developing the hub-drive system as part of DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program, which aims to improve future military vehicles. The latest round of investment will be used to bring the technology into the building and testing phase, including production of two working units.
“Conventional drive systems are heavy, place constraints on the use of space, and consist of components that can turn into lethal projectiles in the event of an explosion beneath the vehicle,” said Dr. David Moore, Director of Research Services. “Moving the drive system to within the wheels removes this threat and disrupts the trend of vehicles becoming heavier and less mobile due to increasing protection and weaponry.”
The QinetiQ team is also looking at opportunities to introduce similar hub-drive systems into commercial sectors such as transport, agriculture, mining, and construction.
“The system could be scaled up or down for use on any number of vehicles, from dump trucks to space rovers,” Dr. Moore said. “The benefits of enhanced power, high torque, efficiency, and agility are not limited to military vehicles, so we are keen to explore opportunities to use this technology in new and innovative ways.”