Equipmake, the Norfolk-based electronics R&D company, is about to begin an unprecedented expansion phase that, within five years, will convert it to a tier one manufacturer of electric motors for cars, making “hundreds of thousands a year”.
The firm, which over the past decade has used a highly successful phase designing KERS systems for Formula 1 and World Endurance Championship cars to acquire cutting-edge knowledge of automotive motors, has designed and built a range of so-called spoke machines — compact permanent magnet motors with the magnets arranged as spokes in a wheel for efficient torque generation.
Equipmake’s founder and managing director, Ian Foley, says spoke motors aren’t new; his company’s achievement is to have discovered — and patented — a new way to cool the magnets that allows them to deliver higher continuous power than others. In most applications, Equipmake motors will thus be smaller, higher-revving and use less materials.
Foley estimates that Equipmake has a lead of around two years over rivals.
The demand for electric motors from big car companies has “changed completely” over the past year or so, Foley says, as they rush to compete with eye-catching models such as the Tesla Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace.
Equipmake’s opportunity now is to become a major supplier, Foley explains, by “employing hundreds of people and manufacturing hundreds of thousands of motors”. The company will need to build in steps, he says, taking in outside investors and carefully controlling quality as it goes, before concluding: “But there’s absolutely no doubt the opportunity’s there.”