DSD helps consortium to drive new era of electric powertrain development

UK consortium to drive new era of electric powertrain development


  • Ground-breaking concepts aim to provide the most cost-effective, lightweight, compact and efficient electric powertrain on the market
  • Ambitious ACeDrive project positions the UK as global leader in electric powertrain research and development
  • Match-funding awarded by the APC to help deliver mass-production ready technology
  • Project led by GKN Automotive in partnership with Drive System Design and University of Nottingham


GKN Automotive, Drive System Design and the University of Nottingham are collaborating on an £8 million project to design and develop a world-leading electric vehicle powertrain for the global market.

ACeDrive (Advanced Cooling and Control of High Speed e-Drive) is backed by match-funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). Already progressing through concept selection, it aims to achieve the level of technology and performance outlined in the Automotive Council’s roadmap for 2040 and be production ready by 2023.

ACeDrive is aiming to be the world’s lightest and most efficient electric vehicle powertrain suitable for the volume market. To achieve this it adopts ground-breaking concepts in cooling and system integration, leading to a significant reduction in the number and size of components, the core targets for the programme are a 25% reduction in both packaging size and cost, a 20% drop in weight, and a 10% increase in efficiency compared to current equivalents.

The ACeDrive project will deliver a complete system that combines a downsized electric motor, optimised transmission and high-frequency inverter within a single unit, enabling shared cooling and a remarkably compact housing. Not only does this reduce the packaging size and cost; fewer interfaces means less internal friction, improved transmission alignment and a boost in efficiency and NVH management.

GKN Automotive, a global Tier One electric vehicle driveline supplier, is responsible for the design of the ACeDrive system, including the overall packaging and the development of the motor, inverter and transmission. Following detailed simulation and analysis, final design will commence in Q3 2019. Prototyping, rig and vehicle testing will follow in 2020, before a vehicle demonstrator equipped with the prototype system is unveiled for public demonstration in Q1 2021.

The project will be based at the GKN Automotive Innovation Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, with support from consortium partner Drive System Design in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, as well as the University of Nottingham.

Drive System Design is one of Europe’s leading automotive engineering consultancies, with a reputation for technical excellence in the field of electric drive unit efficiency and NVH optimisation. Its simulation-led approach will optimise ACeDrive as a whole unit, thereby identifying key trade-offs much earlier in the design process than is usually possible. Ultimately, its enhanced test capabilities will meet the growing requirements of the automotive industry for higher speed electric motor testing – up to and beyond 20,000rpm, and with voltages over 800V.

The University of Nottingham is noted for its expertise in thermal management,  semiconductor technology and high-speed motors. It will lead the development of the electric motor, the power electronics modules and advanced integrated cooling. Central to the ACeDrive concept will be the use of advanced SiC transistors, enabling higher frequency control unlocking efficiency improvements, enabling a high speed, next-generation design that is smaller than current motors of equivalent power and affordable for OEM customers.

Gordon Day, General Manager at GKN Automotive Innovation Cente, said: “In partnership with Drive System Design and the University of Nottingham, we are developing a truly advanced eDrive system, more compact and cost-effective than other technologies on the horizon. Our ambition is to help the UK take the lead in electric powertrain design and manufacturing capability.”

Simon Shepherd, Head of Electrified Powertrain at Drive System Design, said: “Our whole system approach to engineering will help to combine next-generation electronic components, ground-breaking integration and a high-speed motor, to deliver significantly greater power density and efficiency with lower cost to OEMs.”

The APC’s 2018 Roadmap Report, Towards 2040: A Guide to Automotive Propulsion Technologies, highlights the key growth opportunities for the UK supply chain in low-carbon propulsion systems. The ACeDrive project will examine the UK supply chain and its capability to support large-scale manufacture of Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD). With the support of the APC supply chain team, new contacts and business relationships are already being developed that will explore and demonstrate this potential.





GKN Automotive is the world’s leading supplier of automotive driveline technology and systems. It develops, builds and supplies an extensive range of automotive driveline technologies – for use in the smallest ultra low-cost car to the most sophisticated premium vehicle demanding the most complex driving dynamics. GKN Automotive is a leading global producer of CVJ Systems, four-wheel drive Systems, Trans Axle Solutions and eDrive Systems and operates in 21 countries at 54 locations employing approximately 29,000 people. It is a pioneer of advanced e-Drive development and has already produced more than 900,000 electrified driveline systems.




Drive System Design (DSD) is an award winning engineering consultancy specialising in the engineering, development, test and control of electrified and conventional driveline systems.

The company’s staff have experience working with vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1s around the world, designing new technologies and solving problems to make their products more competitive. They have the engineering, test, analysis and project management skills necessary to deliver projects to demanding timescales. Working closely with its customers through technical centres in Europe and North America, DSD is recognised as a world leading expert in driveline refinement, efficiency improvement and hybrid and electric vehicle transmissions. DSD is ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified.



The University of Nottingham conducts wide-reaching, world-class research across and between disciplines at all three of its locations. In the most recent assessment of research quality in UK universities 32% of the university’s research was rated world-leading, and a further 49% rated internationally excellent. One example of great research that has had global impact is that of Professor Sir Peter Mansfield, who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of magnetic resonance imaging, now used in hospitals worldwide.

It is the APC hub for power electronic development in the UK and conducts research in this are along with Electric motor development across all industrial, aerospace and automotive sectors.

The Faculty of Engineering at Nottingham is known for its world-class research, inspirational teaching, and diverse academic community.