School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Dr James Widmer

Centre for Advanced Electrical Drives


James is the Director of the Newcastle University Centre for Advanced Electrical Drives. Part of the School of Engineering's Electrical Power Research group, the Centre provides industry with expert design and research services in electrical machines and their associated electronics. In recent years the Centre has undertaken a number of successful projects in the automotive area. These have included collaborations with companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Cummins, Renault, Nissan and others. There has also been a focus on Aerospace applications, with the Centre working with organisations such as Airbus and Goodrich.

James is also Director for the Advanced Propulsion Centres Electric Machines Spoke, also based at Newcastle University; the spoke was established in late 2015 in recognition of the success of the Centre's research into automotive traction motor development. The Spoke is targeted at bringing together the UK electric machines community, drawn from both academia and industry, in order to ensure UK leadership in this field. 

James joined Newcastle University in December 2009 from a senior position in the aerospace industry and has a PhD in the design of rare-earth magnet free electric traction motors.


James is a member of the Electrical Power Research Group and his profile can be viewed on Google Scholar.

James undertakes industry partnered research into new types of electric machines and drives and has a PhD in the design of rare-earth magnet free electric traction motors.


James is a leading researcher in low cost electric traction motors for use in hybrid electric and battery electric vehicles. Significant cost savings have been achieved through elimination of expensive materials (such as rare earth magnets) and through taking a systems approach to the development of the vehicle drivetrain. In recent years successful traction motors have been demonstrated on Jaguar Land Rover concept vehicles and on trucks. James has led the following, recent projects for the university:

High Density Switched Reluctance Drivetrain (HDSRDS) - funder: Innovate UK, partners: Sevcon and Cummins - successful development and on-truck test of a new type of rare-earth free traction motor. Based on switched reluctance technology, this new technology has advantages as it is able to operate from a standard three phase AC drive and share the coolant loop with a hybrid vehicle's internal combustion engine. The technology has been successfully demonstrated on a 7.5 tonne parallel hybrid truck and is now being considered for a number of follow-on applications.

Evoque-E - funder: Innovate UK, partners: Jaguar Landrover, Tata Steel, Zytek Auytomotive, Motor Design Ltd and many others - development of a low cost traction motor replacing expensive rare earth magnets with cheap ferrites and copper with low cost aluminium, this project has focused on overcoming the limitations of these materials. The project has resulted in the manufacture and on-vehicle test of a traction motor which has proven performance comparable to much more expensive alternatives.

Low Cost Electric Drivetrain - funder: Innovate UK, partners: Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Steel, GKN, Sevcon - this project has looked at the development of the next generation of vehicle drivetrains; focused on overall system cost reduction as well as achieving the highest possible system performance, as one example the project has produced electrical machines with more than twice the power density of those currently in production.


James has worked extensively in the development of drives for use in a variety of aerospace applications. In particular he has been involved in the development of extremely high efficiency, low mass motors for use in solar powered aircraft applications. These projects, variously involving QinetiQ, Boeing and Airbus, have seen motors designed which have achieved new levels of efficiency whilst being designed to operate at altitudes above 50kft and at temperatures below -50degC.

Other Research

James has also undertaken research into electrical machines in applications ranging from dishwashers to KERS in racing cars. In each case the objective is to move forward the capability of the electric drive, resulting in commercial advantage to industrial partners.