Although the State of Israel is not leading the global transition from pollutive to sustainable transportation, the Israeli autotech industry is playing a significant role in the effort to develop green solutions in the motor vehicle world. Electreon Wireless and EVR Motors are two of the Israeli companies that are offering innovative solutions on the way to creating fundamental change
Road transportation is one of the central contributing factors to the climate crisis. This fact makes the transition of the pollutive auto industry to clean and smart transportation solutions especially critical. Despite the great importance of the transition to sustainable transportation, one glance at the vehicles travelling Israel’s roads in 2022 is sufficient to understand that the electric vehicle revolution has not yet taken place.
Electreon Wireless is a public company that was founded in 2013 which develops equipment to wirelessly charge electric motor vehicles. Barak Duani, the company’s CTO, lists some of the obstacles that are presently hindering the global transition to green transportation.
The first complexity he mentions is the size of the battery required to operate electric vehicles. Unlike a vehicle that runs on gasoline or diesel, in an electric vehicle, we take the energy with us, reducing the flexibility of recharging during the journey which is, by nature, both complex and time-consuming. This limitation causes a Range Anxiety that expresses drivers’ concerns that the vehicle’s energy won’t be enough to reach the desired destination.
The fact that electric vehicles are generally limited in their range of travel leads many to refrain from using them – both as private and commercial vehicles (trucks, buses etc.). Furthermore, large batteries, of the type needed in large vehicles are also extremely pollutive. Studies show that at least 5 years of travel are needed to justify using an electric vehicle from an environmental perspective, during which the emissions are offset by use of the application/solution.
The second complexity according to Duani is related to infrastructure and is, somewhat ironically, expected to occur specifically when electric vehicles are widely adopted, namely, the limited capacity to produce electricity. “Imagine a situation where 400-500 thousand electric vehicles need to charge overnight in Tel Aviv”, Dunai explains. “This will require an extremely high level of energy to be supplied during a relatively short period for which, as of today, the electricity grid is simply insufficient”.
The solution offered by Electreon includes a substantive response to these two problems: “We enable a smaller battery while, at the same time, enhancing the vehicle’s effectiveness”, Duani claims. The advantage is that electricity, unlike gasoline, can be delivered wirelessly. Electreon utilizes this advantage and transfers the energy via the only existing shared infrastructure – the road. This means that electric vehicles using this road are actually driving on an infrastructure that is constantly charging the vehicle.
One of the fields of electric charging is an area called ERS (Electric Road Systems) – a dynamic charging infrastructure that is not necessarily wireless, but that can also be wired. Some companies create a charging solution that works with direct contact. Dynamic charging is divided into three types of technology: overhead charging – such as trains; charging via a track laid on the ground, and wireless charging – as offered by Electreon. The issue of wireless charging infrastructure can also be divided into several categories: static charging – when the vehicle is charged while it is parked; dynamic charging – during the journey; and a semi-dynamic (hybrid) wireless charging infrastructure.
Electreon’s dynamic charging system combines both static and semi-dynamic charging, in other words, wireless instead of wired charging. This means lower maintenance and setup costs because there is no need for a separate infrastructure for each vehicle. The infrastructure itself is underground and does not hinder the flow of traffic.
The company’s vision and strategy are characterized by dynamic deployment that enables greater adoption of electric vehicles by reducing the battery size, the negation of range anxiety, and a lowering of each new car’s level of emissions.
Electreon’s solution raises a complex question as to who will finance the infrastructure and how the transition to electric will be implemented. According to Duani, the process in the world of motor vehicles will be similar to that which occurred over several decades in the telecommunications world – and it will take several years until the shared infrastructure is deployed around the world. And who will pay for it? “Once the initial ecosystem based on deploying static and semi-static charging infrastructures has been created and the first users take to the road, the transition process to a dynamic infrastructure will be economic and there will be entities willing to pay for it on the basis of solutions such as a toll road or payment to the state”, Duani claims.
Tel Aviv’s Electrifying Road
“One of the central challenges in the transition to sustainable transportation is heavy transportation – primarily trucks and buses – that constitute a significant factor in transportation pollution. The EU and the State of Israel have both decided to designate the heavy transportation issue as their top priority because the heavy polluters are also the main users of the local infrastructures. Furthermore, solving this problem will also help increase the use of public transport by making it cleaner, more efficient, more effective, and reduce the use of private vehicles”.
Electreon offers a solution for the problem of heavy vehicles’ transition to electricity. In 2018, the company won the tender for a large project in Sweden that included deploying the first dynamic wireless road of its kind in the world – 1.6 kilometers long. The road is used by two types of vehicles that previously never driven on a dynamic infrastructure: trucks and buses.
The project, still in operation, is funded by the Swedish Transportation Authority. “Through this project, we established numerous contacts and received approvals that we would not have gained without the Innovation Authority’s support. The project gave us the understanding of what is needed to deploy such infrastructure”, Duani says.
Electreon is currently working on an even bigger project in Tel Aviv: infrastructure that charges about 200 buses of the Dan Bus Company and solves its energy needs, increases the buses’ operational time, and, in the next stage, aims to also reduce battery size. This project is a continuation of a pilot conducted in Tel Aviv in 2020 with the support of the Innovation Authority and other entities. Other projects are progressing in Italy and Germany.
The company’s vision is to contribute to the global transition to electric transportation, thereby making transportation cleaner and more ecological. “Our plans for the coming years are to enhance our foothold in Israel, Europe, and the US and to provide a solution for the growing demand for electric public transport”, says Duani.
Less Weight, More Output
Another Israeli company seeking to contend with the challenges of transition to green transportation is EVR Motors. The company’s CEO, Opher Doron, previously worked at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) where he served as general manager of the space division, among others, leading the team that planned and built the ‘Genesis’ spacecraft.
“About 4% of new cars in Israel this year will be electric. We assume that, like the rest of the world, this figure will double each year, but we still have a long way to go. In Europe, for example, more than 25% of new cars are electric while in Norway, this figure stands at no less than 85%. We are way behind them in this regard.
“We will all pay a high price if we don’t look after the planet”, says Doron. “Significant effort must be invested to reduce air pollution – this will both mitigate the climate crisis and improve our health. In my opinion, the state is not aggressive enough in many of its goals and is far too lenient with itself. I am firmly in favor of toughening environment-related regulation, primarily in the field of transportation”.
“One of the things that deters people from moving to an electric vehicle is the travel range”, Doron explains. “A smaller motor enables more room for a larger battery. Reducing the cost and size are two very important issues in transforming electric vehicles from a niche product to the majority of the market. This is where we enter the picture with the motors we have developed. Electric motors contribute to the environment because they are cleaner, and ours contribute more than those of other companies because they are smaller and cheaper, thereby somewhat lowering the obstacles to entering the world of electric vehicles”.
EVR Motors is engaged in the development of a new technology of electric motor. Most existing electric motors in motor vehicles are radial motors with magnets. EVR Motors enhanced the configuration of the generic motor in a way that allows to build a radial motor that is significantly smaller and lighter than one with the same output using regular technology. There are countless motors with varying outputs that can be created with this configuration.
“Developments in the field of motors are primarily small improvements in the coils or cooling but without any quantum leaps”, Doron explains. “In the field of radial motors, we don’t know of any dramatic changes like ours in the motor’s topology.”. The company has already registered two patents and recently submitted requests for nine further patents worldwide.
The first motor developed by the company was originally intended for two-wheel vehicles and is so powerful that it is more suitable for three-wheel vehicles or powerful motorbikes. The company is presently developing a smaller motor for mopeds. The first motor weighs less than 10 kilos and supplies about 17 kilowatts i.e., is twice as powerful as other motors of similar weight.
“Our innovation is centered around a different form of the motors’ stator – the stationary part of the motor. Our motor is very different in appearance and behavior from a regular motor, and this is the source of the increased output. Because the motor is significantly smaller in relation to its output, it also consists of less material than a regular motor and is therefore also cheaper. The weight of each component is one of the central benchmarks in any vehicle, and this is especially true in electric vehicles because the battery itself is very heavy. So, our motor is better, lighter, and cheaper – a winning combination”, Doron claims.
EVR Motor’s clients are large industrial entities: auto manufacturers and vehicle motor producers. These two kinds of client want small, light, cheap electric motors with high output, efficiency, and flexibility, and that is what the company provides.
The business model can be divided into two kinds of clients: large clients that want to create the motors themselves, including auto manufacturers, and those that don’t want to produce the motors themselves but rather, to buy the finished product.
“The challenge is that the large auto companies will only buy motors from large suppliers to the motor vehicle world”, says Doron, “and there is no way that they will buy motors made in Petach Tikva. Our primary business model is therefore to take our innovation and design motors for the auto and motor manufacturers which they will then produce themselves with our technology and pay us royalties. The company’s secondary model is to assembly motors in Israel and sell them to the smaller clients – those that want to buy dozens up to thousands motor units.
The Dream: A Leading Israeli Motor
EVR Motors is presently after the first successful prototype of its motor and is now producing several dozen prototype motors that are intended for clients from ten countries interested in conducting tests and experiments with the motors. The company is simultaneously developing additional motors of various sizes and motors cooled by water and air that are intended for different types of motor vehicles.
“Our dream is to be the standard for radial motors”, says Doron. “If what we have done on small motors also works similarly on larger motors – and we estimate that it will – and on the assumption that radial motors will continue to be the dominant form of motors, those manufacturers who fail to close the gap and achieve our level of performance, will simply be left behind.
“I assume that some of the manufacturers will find other configurations, but a large portion of them will stick to the original and want to adopt our method. In my opinion, most radial motors in a decade’s time will therefore have a configuration very close to our own. We will be delighted if, for example, our two-wheel motor will be the leading global model, even if it is manufactured in other countries. Israeli technology is a source of pride”.
Israeli leadership in this field should not be taken for granted. Israeli auto-tech started from almost nothing only 15-20 years ago and was based initially on software, a field in which Israelis are very prominent. This subsequently progressed to the sensors industry, another Israeli stronghold and is now encompassing all sorts of interesting and varied fields such as electric motors, charging systems etc. Suddenly, mechanics have become part of the equation. It is not at all trivial that Israeli high-tech has begun operating in these fields – it’s not easy to raise funding and most investors are not used to hardware. Labor costs in Israel and import costs are also very high, so this is an impressive challenge.
Doron has warm praise for the Israel Innovation Authority. “We received their main grant to develop our motors at the beginning of the Covid crisis. The speed with which the Authority examined, processed, approved, and funded our request was very impressive. Without it, things would have been very difficult for us. The Authority is one of the important keys to Israeli high-tech – certainly to a field such as ours which is very difficult and challenging for investors. Due to the nature of the auto industry and the hardware in the vehicles, it takes a long time to receive payment from the auto manufacturers. Large investments are needed in this field and there are many challenges. The Authority definitely plays an important role in helping navigate these difficult stages”.