Lordstown electric pickup to use in-wheel motors. A good idea?

Lordstown Motors, the startup headed by Workhorse CEO Steve Burns, is building an electric pickup called the Endurance at a former GM factory in Lordstown, Ohio. The Endurance is expected to be available in the fourth quarter of 2020 at a base price of $52,500.

The new e-pickup will feature in-wheel hub electric motors, according to specs published on the Lordstown’s website. Mounting motors inside the wheel hubs frees up space, and enables different amounts of torque to be delivered to each wheel with precise electronic controls, rather than by using a more traditional hardware solution such as a differential.

Lordstown Endurance Specs

Several suppliers, including Elaphe, Protean and Nidec, have developed in-wheel motors. Aptera, a startup that’s building an ultra-efficient EV, says Elaphe’s in-wheel motors offer advantages including enhanced aerodynamics, lower vehicle weight and low energy usage.

Others are skeptical. The classic objection to in-wheel motors is their additional unsprung mass, which makes it more challenging to achieve a smooth ride and handling.

Croatian supercar builder Rimac uses a 4-motor design, but these are not in-wheel hub motors. “In-wheel hub motors add unsprung mass that results in higher stress to suspension components,” founder Mate Rimac told Charged in 2016. “Our motors sit low and inboard, close to the center of the car, which we consider to be better for vehicle dynamics.”

In a 2018 interview, Lucid’s Peter Rawlinson told Charged, “There is that unsprung mass issue, which degrades ride, but that’s not the key thing: it’s getting that…suspension geometry, particularly upfront with the steering geometry, and also getting conventional foundation brake cooling, those are the real killer issues.”

Mobility futurist James Carter made some particularly scathing comments about in-wheel motors in a LinkedIn post: “For some small efficiency gains (all the advantages mentioned in [a Motor Authority article] also apply to body-mounted 4-motor systems like Rivian), the Lordstown will have the strong possibility of worst-in-class ride and handling due to high unsprung mass.  Not only that, powertrain unreliability is highly probable from mounting the motor and electrical components on a constantly moving platform that is exposed to high shocks and forces.”

Source: Lordstown Motors via Motor Authority

  • Stuart McColl

    Great article ! Thanks Charles. This in-wheel motor issue is really important. Sandy Munroe is quoted in one of his broadcasts with being very impressed with the performance of an in-wheel motor car he drove. It makes sense … mass directly over the wheel. But un-sprung mass and then the issue of placing the motor so close to the insult of the road itself including salt, water, mud … and as the article pointed out vibration and shocks constantly. I’m interested in ready more about this great topic … please keep reporting on it Charles.

  • Gee fis

    This is lame for $50k! Striate axels! *(100 year old tech), leaf springs! (100 year old tech), in wheel motors! High unsprang weight (this will ride like a loaded hay wagon when empty) this will be a menace in the road, do the world a favor, scrape this sh!t now!!!

  • john Tobeck

    what happened to the workhorse w15?

  • Duncan Cairncross

    A totally STUPID idea – this tells me that that company has no engineers in positions that can tell the “leaders” about the real world
    (1) Motor torque is roughly proportional to mass – a Tesla uses a 35 kg motor and a 10:1 reduction gear to get the same torque as a 350 kg motor
    So direct drive = heavy – very heavy – motors
    (2) That heavy motor is all UNSPRUNG weight

    Golf karts, e-bikes, big excavators – they can use hub motors
    For cars/trucks – it’s a bloody stupid idea

    • Barry W Finger

      Wow – good to know you are in that class of people that just know “all that can be known is known”. As an actual engineer, I can promise you thinking like that kills innovation. There are countless examples of throwing conventional wisdom out of the window. Will these folks succeed? Probably not. But let them try and you just go do something else.

    • Roger Walsberg

      Way to shut down your mind. Off road racing trucks have huge heavy axles and 40 inches of wheel travel. These trucks will travel 1000 miles and tackel 3 foot bumps at 100 miles per hour. The “evil” unsprung myth doesnt hurt them one bit. Street vehicles can easily compensate for heavier wheels with modern suspension technology.

    • morrisg

      Good points, Duncan. I suspect Workhorse will design reduction gearing into their motors, which is even more unsprung weight. Add flexing of the thick electrical wires and coolant lines to the problems of in wheel motors.

      I believe Borg Warner has introduced a center mounted dual motor (one case, two separate motors) with conventional drive axles to take power out to the wheels. That would preserve one motor per wheel while eliminating the drawbacks of in wheel motors.

  • SJC_1

    More unstrung weight and low torque, not a winning combination.

  • Vincent Wolf

    in wheel motors can work fine if done with the highest tech components but I would be leary of owning one in pothole USA. USA is just one big pothole. Did you know that Denver covers about 100,000 potholes every year? Some places like Minnesota are even worse. It’s that freezing water cycle. Like I said, pothole, USA. And don’t even get me started on sinkholes caused by a rotting infrastructure washing out roads, etc. USA highways are not autobahns!