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Made in Flanders: 400 hp in a shoebox-sized e-motor

The next Elon Musk could very well come from Flanders. Based in the town of Kortrijk where it employs around 30 people, tech start-up Magnax – short for ‘magnetic axial’ – has raised EUR 16 million for the further development of its ‘electric motor of the future’. Lighter, cheaper, stronger and more energy-efficient: the prototype weighs in at 25 kilograms and is no bigger than a turkey, but can produce up to 400 horsepower (hp).

Gaining momentum

The axial flux motor sounds like a device from a sci-fi movie, but Magnax co-founders Peter Leijnen, Daan Moreels and Kester Goh seek to conquer the world with this cutting-edge technology. Supported by the University of Ghent (UGent), the engineers built an electric motor that delivers three to four times more power than best-in-class motors found in electric cars today.

Most electric cars on today’s market work according to the principle of radial flux, where magnetic flux moves perpendicular to the car’s axis. In an axial motor, however, flux occurs in parallel with the axis of the motor. The concept has existed for at least a hundred years but was considered too complex for mass production. However, in the last ten years, the technology has resurfaced and is gaining momentum.

Greater power, smaller size

“We have already produced dozens of prototypes,” says Daan Moreels. “Tests in June 2020 showed that, with our new prototype, we can generate 2.5 times more power than a Tesla engine of the same weight. For production versions, the generated power will easily be 3 times higher. Due to its efficiency, our engine can also increase a car’s driving range by up to 20%. For a BMW i3, our calculations showed an increase of 25%, which exceeded our expectations.” 

Our technology is revolutionary. It has much more power density, is much more efficient, is made with much less material and is being developed for mass production. We’re just in time for the next generation of e-cars.

Daan Moreels
co-founder of Magnax

“As far as radial flux is concerned, Tesla has taken it to the highest level,” adds  Peter Leijnen. “But we are still developing our axial flux prototype. We achieve the same yield from an engine that weighs a third of Tesla’s, and it’s cheaper to produce. Even more, our engines are recyclable, which is also better for the environment.”

The biggest stumbling block for electric motors is the price, and we’re getting rid of that obstacle.

Peter Leijnen
CTO and co-founder of Magnax

From garage to international headlines

Like many other start-ups, the story of Magnax began in a garage. “I was working as an independent engineer and had to design a wind turbine generator for a customer,” says Leijnen. “There, I met Daan, also an engineer, and we started talking. We also saw opportunities in this technology for electric engines. Daan brought Kester Goh on board, and that’s how Magnax was born.”

The choice to start a company in this highly specialized niche proved to be a high-potential one. “In recent years, we have been contacted by over 4,000 companies interested in the high power density and compactness of our prototypes,” says Daan Moreels. “These are all companies active in e-mobility and the development of electric vehicles, boats and airplanes.”

Magnax will now refine its prototypes and aims to start producing them in 2022. Daan Moreels: “Our technology is mature enough to be used in vehicles that will be on the market for many years to come. We are initially targeting manufacturers of sports cars, off-highway vehicles, vans, trucks, tracked vehicles and drones. These customers need compact, light, high-powered engines. Next on our list are electric passenger cars.”

It's our ambition to capture a large part of the electric motor market: a billion-dollar market in full growth.

Daan Moreels
co-founder of Magnax

Three to four years

According to the engineers, their engine will be used in passenger cars within three or four years. "To produce the engines, we have entered into a partnership with a manufacturing subcontractor," explains Daan Moreels. "We cooperate closely with this subcontractor, but we stay in charge of commercial matters." 

What’s more, various investors and business angels have channeled funds into the Flanders-based start-up through Magnax’s investment fund – including Vlerick Group, Torus Capital and Hirschvogel Automotive.

Flanders, e-vehicle hub

Magnax’s innovative business only adds to the credentials of Flanders and Belgium as an e-mobility center of expertise. In the past few years, numerous automotive and other industry players have invested in setting up or expanding their e-vehicle production, assembly, shipping  and other related activities, including Audi (Germany), Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks (Sweden), International Car Operators (Japan) and AGP (Latin America). In early 2021, Volvo Cars announced another expansion of its e-car capacity in Ghent, Flanders, as well as the planned production of a second e-car model at the factory.

More info

Magnax
Reported by
newspapers De Tijd and Het Nieuwsblad
15 January 2021

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