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LG launches sustainable DCT electric motor
Innovative dual-clutch selector motor from LG doesn't depend on rare-earth elements
29 Aug 2014
THE components division of South Korean electronics giant LG has invented a dual-clutch transmission motor that does not require the use of finite rare-earth materials in its construction, resulting in the most sustainable unit of its kind.
Dual-clutch transmissions require twin servo-motors to position a pair of selector shafts prior to clutch engagement ensuring precise shifting, but all current designs depend on limited global resources of rare-earth magnets.
LG Innotek's new motor has been developed with a special type of magnet which is comprised of common and sustainable materials, ensuring a more reliable supply of the vital components for the future.
High-performance selector motors need the strongest permanent magnets to respond quickly in gearbox applications, but LG's solution meets the design requirements using more abundant materials.
The term “rare earth” can be misleading and the elements which comprise the powerful magnets are about as common as tin, but with increasing demand for high-performance permanent-magnet motors, the raw materials are becoming harder to source.
As prices of rarer materials increase, the cost of common components used in LG's solution would likely remain more stable.
In addition to the cost and sustainability advantages, the LG motor is also four per cent lighter than conventional designs allowing potential fuel-efficiency and performance gains too.
The exact chemical composition is a closely guarded and patented secret, but LG says it does not include rare neodymium and dysprosium, previously thought to be essential in the production of strong field permanent-magnets.
As with all mining, the sourcing of rare-earth materials is environmentally damaging as are the refining processes involved, but an alternative to rare elements can potentially relieve some of the environmental strain.
Many of the world's mainstream manufacturers now use versions of the dual-clutch transmission first developed by the Volkswagen Group, and LG says its product will appeal to manufacturers by offering a more dependable supply.
The motors appear to be installed in the DCT control unit produced by German technology giant Continental, which is used by Getrag to control gear selection on its PowerShift transmission, but LG may be developing its environmentally friendly magnets for other manufacturers too.
The invention could now progress into other automotive electric motor applications with high-performance motors for power steering, camshaft control or even active aerodynamics.
Production of the new motors will start next year at LG's Mexican factory, and the company is confident of its success, with expansion plans already under consideration.
The breakthrough is just one of the resource challenges facing the automotive industry, and solutions to diminishing lithium reserves for EV batteries and gold for electrical contacts are just two other areas of concern.
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