Design Engineering

UofW-developed wheel units to slash EV development costs

By DE Staff   

General Automotive

Modular motor, suspension and wheel assembly envisioned as efficient way to create low-cost specialty vehicles.

Prof. Amir Khajepour stands next to a vehicle containing his new wheel unit. (Photo credit: University of Waterloo)

Researchers at the University of Waterloo announced they have developed a modular wheel unit that’s affordable to produce and removes much of the complication associated with electric vehicle design. The self-contained unit combines a wheel and an electric motor, along with braking, suspension, steering and control assemblies to form a modular unit that can be bolted to any vehicle frame.

“The idea is modularity and plug-and-play control capability,” said Amir Khajepour, a mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor at Waterloo. “Our wheel unit, in a sense, is a full vehicle with only one wheel. All that’s missing is a body.”

According to Khajepour, a mass-produced wheel unit, or corner module, would significantly reduce production costs while also opening up space for passengers that would otherwise be devoted to mechanical components. At present, the prototyped units weigh about 40 kilograms, have about 25 horsepower and feature active wheel cambering, or tilting.

The next step, Khajepour said, is to scale wheel unit for large utility and commercial vehicles. That would pave the way for more cost-effective production of low-volume, specialized vehicles with customized bodies in fields including mining, forestry and rescue operations.


“It’s an economy of scale problem,” said Khajepour, who serves as director of the university’s Mechatronic Vehicle Systems Lab. “Corner modules would allow us, without enormous development costs, to make vehicles that are specific for each application, for each function, by concentrating only on the design of the body and the user interface.”


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