Exclusive Interview With Gorazd Lampic: In-Wheel Motors—The Future Of Electric Cars

11 Dec, 2018 09:33
source: 香港奇点财经 Singularity Financial

In-wheel motors are the next major breakthrough in electric car business. They not only reduce vehicle parts, complexity and cost, but also harness design freedom to satisfy user needs and desires.

Elaphe Propulsion Technologies (“Elaphe”) is a well-deserved leader in the field of in-wheel motors. After years of trial and error, their products have finally gone into production. The company is currently raising capital to expand their production in China.

Singularity Financial Ltd., a Hong Kong based media platform, conducted an in-depth interview with Gorazd Lampic, founder and CEO of Elaphe, an industry expert in physics and alternative energy. Gorazd and his team have been developing and refurbishing in-wheel motors since 2003. Under his leadership, Elaphe achieves exponential growth, and in 2016, Gorazd was recognized the Best Young Manager of The Year from The Managers’ Association of Slovenia.

1、Your major is physics. You are also involved in astronomy, computer science, electromagnetism, electrical machinery, etc. Why did you finally choose the field of wheel motors as the entrepreneurial direction and found Elaphe?

I always had this entrepreneurial hustle attitude with everything I put my focus on. As a national decathlon athlete, as a chess player, as a scientist and a physicist. Being quite competitive means that if there is focus on something, then it has to be dedicated to put all the best efforts in what that focus is. I studied physics and graduated from the study of active galactic cores (giant black holes in centres of most galaxies that continuously suck up stars and emit the change in gravitational energy thorough light which can be measured by Hubble Space Telescope). During my studies I met an amazing scientist, Andrej Detela, that was actively pursuing innovation in electro-magnetism. This inspired me to do a masters in electrical engineering, focusing on electric mobility. Among the many innovative ideas we approached, the in-wheel electric propulsion technology made the most sense. So, after a couple of years of research and prototyping in the early 2000’s, Elaphe Propulsion Technologies was born in 2006, focusing solely on developing the ultimate in-wheel platforms for electric vehicles.

2、You are a good professional manager who has been named the young manager of the year by The Managers’ Association of Slovenia. What is the secret of your business management?

Although I did not have a set goal of becoming a manager (i.e. CEO of a high-tech company), it sort of came along as the company and technology developed, and since it was what the company needed to grow, I stepped into these shoes and I try to constantly learn so that they still fit. One thing which is really important to me personally, is that what we have accomplished and where we are headed, is a great validation of all the hard work not only I invested, but our highly motivated team still keeps investing. It’s a result of a team effort and I would not have it any other way. I am very proud of the Elaphe family! That is the secret.

3、The technical strength of your company is amazing, with your technology, Audi R8 is able to accelerate to 100km/h in 3.5 seconds, how do you achieve this?

The Elaphe innovation and technology DNA, which is a building block of our in-wheel propulsion platforms, allows for the highest specific torques in the world – meaning, we can package a lot of traction torque in a very small, compact and lightweight package. This allows us to have a light-weight, spacious vehicle, with ample room for the vehicle users or cargo, batteries, etc. But we also save a lot on weight and improve certain driving characteristics of the vehicle. For example, the entire traction system is completely inside the wheels, wrapped around a standard vehicle braking system, using no gears, transmissions or any mechanical energy transfer systems. This makes the vehicle very agile, capable of setting record-braking performance, and also quite free to design whims of engineers and designers. We do mule projects like the R8 mostly for testing purposes, but also to demonstrate all the higher-level benefits of the technology (and show there are no major limitations). Sports performance is just for the demonstration and to push forward the development – we see the main commercial applications in different segments of vehicles, not just at the high-end. And of course, the secret sauce in the end is the software. That is why we focus on platforms and not only on the motors. The future needs of mobility require a holistic view on a system, vehicle and ecosystem level – and we want to support this for the benefit of our planet and society.

 

4、Your company has developed a variety of products in the direction of motors and powertrain. Compared with competitors, what are the advantages of your company?

It is the holistic approach where multiple advantages are required. One of the core advantages is the compact electromagnetic topology enabling the already mentioned high specific torque, but also innovations in mechanical design and on the system-level are equally important. If you only take the existing electric motor technology and scale or re-parametrize it to fit the wheel, it is far from competitive. You have to develop the new electromagnetic topology bottom-up, merge it with innovative mechanical design with several important details, you need to develop the power electronics and control electronics software in parallel, you need to ensure the production processes are suitable for mass production, you need to define the validation procedures and test it on benches and vehicles, you need to develop advanced functionalities and at the same time – you have to constantly improve in all that. I think Elaphe is on a good track.

5、What is the next development plan of your company? What are the goals to be achieved in the future?

The passenger car powertrain architecture has remained almost the same from its beginning and has barely changed even with the seemingly unstoppable trend of vehicle electrification in the recent years. However, there is an even bigger revolution approaching, with driving assistance technology maturing much faster than some expected. At the same time vehicles are largely becoming connected, with wide-spread wireless connectivity infrastructure and automotive hardware readily available.

It is commonly accepted that autonomous vehicles are electric and designed to fit demographical (e.g. ageing population), societal (e.g. shared mobility), environmental (clean, high efficiency, silent) and technological (digitalization, multimodal transport) changes.

This brings forward the need for reduced powertrain complexity, increased freedom of design (elimination of constraints), increased safety and reduced level of environment, user and vehicle sensing uncertainty. These needs position in-wheel technology as the top technology choice for vehicle propulsion in the CASE segments. And Elaphe is ready to support this transition.

6、Which companies have your company cooperated with and which customers have you obtained?

As an innovation company we have been around for the better part of the last two decades, so we can honestly say we have often had the privilege to be a pioneer in many aspects. Our customers are both big carmakers and Tier one suppliers or some niche vehicle makers and new players in the vehicle industry. From the more experienced ones we learn and improve our offerings – in several projects with cars being already produced and in the phase of validation. With niche vehicle manufacturers we are covering the segment with early SOP and reasonably big quantities. And the new entrants in the industry are the most interesting ones, since the reward of their success is the greatest. Some will fail but several will win. The winning ones will also push the traditional OEMs to use these advanced technologies.

Beside purely in-wheel motors we do a lot of research on related fields. Since our founding, we have been involved in numerous research projects across the industry, from working on wide-bandgap semiconductors, to lithium-air batteries, braking systems, control algorithms, connectivity modules and similar. Among the publicly available information we can mention that Elaphe R&D innovation partners in different project were major OEMs and Tier 1s such as Audi, Groupe PSA, JAC, IVECO, VOLVO CE, Infineon, Continental, Brembo, Tenneco, AVL and others. We are cooperating with many partners and customers ranging from niche OEMs to major mass vehicle producers from around the globe, most of which we cannot disclose, on projects that look to bring Elaphe in-wheel technology to mass adoption.

7、Your company has cooperated with Zhejiang Asia-pacific Mechanical & Electronic Co., Ltd. and established a factory in China. Why did you choose to come to China and how to look at the potential of the Chinese market?

Well, in the early days of Elaphe, in 2007, I was in China on a cultural business exchange in Chengdu. In fact, Ljubljana (Elaphe R&D Headquarters) and Chengdu are sister cities and as a result there is a cooperative relationship. Even then, in 2007, Chengdu already had over one million electric two wheelers in operation. I immediately saw the potential of this amazing country, with its rich history and ambitious plans for growth. By being an avid chess player, I also took a keen interest in Chinese strategic board games, such as Go, which I still pursue today. The most fun I have, when I visit People’s square and play Xiang-qi with local people. A lot of fun, you can imagine… Strong strategic moves have always been part of the Chinese culture and nation. While we might think of China in the past as the global factory, it has become much more than a production superpower. It is now one of the world’s largest, most prosperous markets in its self. And it is more and more the de facto home for crazy, innovative ideas, driving the disruptive wave of mobility across the transportation and information technology industries. Living up to this promise as a very forward-thinking Chinese group, Zhejiang Asia-pacific Mechanical & Electronic Co., Ltd. (APG) sought Elaphe out to join and help facilitate the mobility disruption appetite of China. And we have great cooperation. Our presence in China these past years also provided us with a lot of insight into the market, and we see more and more potential. China is globalizing and opening up more and more to the world, deserving its place as one of the largest, fastest-growing, and forward-looking markets in the world.

8、Your company is a very international company. In addition to China, which markets will be developed in the future?

We are focusing on a global market, and different modes of mobility and imaginative designs are coming from all major continents. There is no crystal ball, but the major growth hubs are China, Europe and North America, with the rest of Asia and India following very closely behind. Asian countries with no automotive history are entering the EV space with national programmes, and India will likely follow China as a major EV/mobility market. Due to our roots in Europe and constant support from the EU commission, we wish to also strongly support European OEMs so that they will be able to compete in the global race for new tech in the automotive, where they are slightly lacking behind in real implementation compared to China.

9、The era of electric vehicles has arrived. Just this month, the market value of Tesla has surpassed that of BMW. What kind of development will you see in the electric vehicle industry in the next 5-10 years? What is the future of electric vehicles? What is the future electric vehicle like?

As the new mobility paradigm grows in effect, more and more innovative solutions are required to enable this shift in mobility. Electric vehicles have increasingly different requirements to regular passenger vehicles, in function, packaging and performance. While the traditional automotive industry is focused on recovering investments into ICEs, more and more vehicle designers and manufacturers have been scrambling to find already industrialized, electric propulsion solutions, that would bring them a competitive edge in the market. The in-wheel powertrain system could bring vehicle OEMs – desperate to compete with Tesla on the market share – a competitive advantage, since they will not have to compete with the 15-year head start on the e-axle concept that Tesla perfected, but provide value and appeal to customers on a platform with a new set of rules and fewer constraints.

So, the short answer is, the future electric vehicle is adapted to user needs, connected (we call them CASE vehicles), operated as a service (MaaS), with a lot fewer constraints on its design. As ownership transforms into MaaS services, mobility becomes more and more multi-modal.

10、What challenges do you think the electric vehicle industry is currently facing?

Changing user demands. Lack of supply chains in place to support the changes. Lack of imagination and a heavy inertia of the automotive industry. Big economies of scale are prone to risky changes, so it is understandable that changes are introduced at a slow pace. However, this also opens up a lot of room for newcomer OEMs and competition is/will be fierce. Key opportunities for SMEs and innovative companies to enter the automotive industry. There is also a very positive trend creating a lot of opportunities for start-ups, as capital is more available than ever.