What are Axial Flux Motors?

AC induction motors are no doubt the most popular and widely used electric motors today. For DC applications, there are permanent magnet motors. However, newer applications are demanding different types of motors with higher efficiency and better speed-torque characteristics. One such application is the electric vehicle sector, where axial flux motors are gaining traction.

Axial flux motors are not new. For the past few decades, manufacturers have been using these motors for stationary applications like agricultural machinery and elevators. With modifications and innovations over the past decades, axial flux motors are now capable of running airport pods, electric motorcycles, delivery trucks, aircraft, and electric cars.

Induction motors and permanent magnet motors are most often known as radial flux motors, as the flux they generate radiates out perpendicularly, relative to their axle. With extensive development, engineers are aiming to optimize the weight and cost of radial flux motors, but the going has been asymptotic. Therefore, moving to a completely different type of machine like an axial flux makes better sense.

With the axial flux design, a permanent magnet motor can provide higher torque for a given volume than a similar motor of radial flux design can. This is because the axial flux design works with a much larger active magnetic surface area to generate torque rather than the motor’s outside diameter.

Therefore, the axial flux motor can be much more compact, with an axial length far shorter than that of their radial counterparts. Because of their shorter axial length, axial flux motors are more suitable for applications that use a motor inside the wheel. Although these motors are slim and lightweight, they can provide the machine where they are mounted with higher power and torque density than a comparable radial motor can, without resorting to high-speed rotation.

The shorter, single-dimensional flux path also provides the axial flux motors with high efficiency, typically over 96%. This is a tall order for the best 2D radial flux motors available on the market.

Compared to radial flux motors, axial flux motors can be five to eight times shorter, and two to times lighter. Both these factors improve the options for designers of EV platforms.

Axial flux motors are available in two principal technologies—dual-rotor, single stator, and single rotor, dual stator.

In a permanent magnet motor using radial flux technology, the magnetic flux loop starts from a permanent magnet on the rotor. It then passes through the first tooth of the stator, continues to flow radially along the stator, and passes through a second tooth, arriving at the second magnet in the rotor.

In an axial flux motor, using the dual rotor technology, the flux loop begins at the first magnet. It then passes axially through the stator tooth arriving immediately at the second magnet. Therefore, the flux has to travel a much shorter distance compared to that in the radial flux motor. This allows the axial flux motor to be much smaller for the same power, increasing its power density and efficiency. In contrast, the flux has to follow a 2-dimensional path inside a radial flux motor.