Lightning's In-Wheel Motors

According to the Lightning Car Co. website, “the electric prototype build [is] now well underway” and they are taking pre-orders for the Electric Lightning GT. Is this real? Here is a summary of their claims – and the in-wheel motors, supplied by PML Flightlink, would be a first…

The Lightning GTS
(Photo: Lightning Car Co.)

The chassis brings to mind a British GT — vintage 1960s — but underneath the carbon fiber and Kevlar skin lies a sophisticated honeycomb endoskeleton.

The car costs about $100,000 – more than a Porsche 911 Turbo, more than an Audi R8, even more than its nearest EV cousins, the Fisker Karma, or the Tesla Roadster.

The Lightning GTS is a sports car, the brainchild of Arthur Wolstenholme who produced the upmarket Ronart Jaguar-powered series, but this is a sports car like no other. Powered by electric motors mounted in the wheels and running on nano-titanate batteries, the Lightning is an elegant step forward in the realm of clean running green cars – even if it is a car unattainable to all but the uber-wealthy.

The British company PML Flightlink produces the four wheel-mounted motors 120 kW Hi-Pa HPD40), an approach that has failed in the past due to weight issues, especially in a vehicle’s steered wheels. PML, however, claims to have surpassed this limitation with units boasting a power-to-weight ratio ten times over anything previously developed and coming in only 2kg more in weight than the entire Chevrolet Corvette wheel assemblage used on the original Lightning pre-production models built around 1999 as a supercar, Ford Mustang-powered endeavor. At the time, the company managed only 20 orders before going on hiatus, but seven cars were built. Production started back up in 2006 when Wolsenholme and Iain Sanderson founded the Lightning Car Company with the electric propulsion goal in mind.

The wheel motors rank 240 kW of power-handling, each with an advanced 24-phase system over the more conventional three phase models. The units generate maximum torque of 750 Nm (533 lb-ft) with a relatively flat curve that drops off around 600 Nm. Putting the motors in the wheels raises an impressive list of potential benefits beginning with mechanical simplicity:

• No mechanical ties to the remainder of the car itself.
• No engine under the hood.
• No exhaust.
• No gearbox.
• No differential.
• No driveshaft.

The result is more space and weight can be allocated to batteries. Additionally, designers can count on multiple redundancy. Each wheel can operate on its own. That adds new layers of potential to systems for traction and stability control as well as to the smooth operation of all-wheel drive.

The Lightning is intending to use nano-titanate batteries made by Altair Nano of Nevada. Altair Nano claims their chemistry has two major advantages, the ability to reach a 90% charge in 10 minutes (at what voltage!) and robust regenerative braking. By eliminating the graphite electrode, which in turn gets rid of the interaction of the electrodes and electrolyte, the battery not only charges faster but contains no toxic materials or heavy metals, elements that in other batteries can lead to explosion and fire. Add good performance in temperature extremes, a fifteen-year projected battery life, and an estimated range of 200-miles per charge and it’s clear the nano titanate chemistry (trademarked as Nanosafe) could be an important breakthrough.

Overall the Lightning GT is supposed to produce 700 bhp and top out at 130 mph. The company claims the Lightning will accelerate 0-60 in 4.0 seconds. Black and silver are the color choices with standard features including:

• Traction control
• Regenerative braking
• Electric windows and central door locking
• Alloy wheels
• Tinted windows
• Leather/alcantara sport seats
• Halogen headlights
• LED taillights
• EVCS home-based charging system with safety features

Like other EV designs that exploit the high-performance potential of all-electric drivetrains, the Lightning is one of the more interesting “green” cars to come along in quite some time. Not only is it set apart by the in-wheel motors and cutting-edge batteries, but it aspires to offer a range and charging speed in a class all its own. The Lightning GTS is definitely an electric car to watch and one whose technologies hold promise for the evolution of the entire genre.

Categorized | Cars, Other, Transportation
5 Responses to “Lightning's In-Wheel Motors”
  1. You have the incorrect car shown in the picture of your Lightning Sports Car article. Please see website for down loadable images of the car.

    Thank you

    Arthur Wolstenholme

  2. Brian Raffety says:

    Interesting article on the Lightning electric supercar. I believe the sticker “shock” price of the car will be 150,000 pounds, which is more like $300,000. (But probably even more tomorrow… the way the dollar is falling).

    That’s just out of my vehicle budget, my house budget, and every other budget I take seriously. But I do take the Lightning seriously. It will be a fantastic technology “proving” platform. It will prove electric cars aren’t golf carts. It will prove the potential of in-wheel motors. And it will prove, along with the Phoenix motorcar’s more economical offering, the potential of Altair’s battery technology.

    Interesting, the rapid charge capability of the Altair battery, which has been demonstrated in many 3rd party tests, is genuine. With high voltage chargers, you get 80% recharge in the first minute, and then over the next 9 minutes the battery tops off at 90%-plus charge. On the Lightning, that means a one-minute charge takes you 160 miles. Not bad, especially when it costs from $3 – $4 per charge. That’s like getting 160 miles per gallon. What fuel economy! Not that anyone who can afford a lightning cares about economy.

  3. Ed Ring says:

    The image of the Lightning is now rendering an image of the Lightning – that other car has specs like this…very sorry. The in-wheel motors are of great interest. Have you put one of your prototypes through the paces with all-wheel-drive using four in-wheel motors?

  4. Christian Olsen says:

    I have been following the PML in-wheel technology for some three years.As I understand it, it was initially sponsored heavily by Synergy with their Mini (PML’s Mini QED was a trailing side-by-side development of Synergy’s). Can anyone confirm the existence of a functioning PML Flightlink in-wheel motor in any test car to date?
    Also, does anyone know who now owns or sponsors PML?

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