GM will expand its in-house electric vehicle development capabilities by becoming the first major U.S. automaker to design and manufacture electric motors, a core technology for hybrids and electric vehicles.
By doing so, GM will lower costs and improve performance, quality, reliability and manufacturability of electric motors by controlling design, materials selection and production processes. The first GM-designed and built electric motors are scheduled to debut in 2013 in next-generation, rear-wheel-drive Two-mode Hybrid technology.
“Electric motor innovation supported the first wave of automotive growth a century ago with the electric starter, which eliminated the need for a hand crank, and revolutionized automotive travel for the customer,” said Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman, Global Product Operations. “We think the electrification of today’s automobiles will be just as revolutionary and just as beneficial to our customers. Electric motors will play a huge role in that.”
In conventional cars and trucks, automakers design and manufacture engines to efficiently use energy provided from a gas tank to provide power to the wheels. Motors and batteries, respectively, fill that role in hybrid and electric vehicles. As the range and speed of electric-only propulsion increase, so do the importance of motors and batteries.
Electric vehicles are powered solely by electric motors, while hybrid vehicles also use an internal combustion engine for propulsion. GM’s next-generation rear-wheel-drive Two-mode Hybrid system will use two unique motor designs and an internal combustion engine to provide improved fuel efficiency compared with the current Two-mode Hybrid technology in GM’s full-size pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles.
“In the future, electric motors might become as important to GM as engines are now,” Stephens said. “By designing and manufacturing electric motors in-house, we can more efficiently use energy from batteries as they evolve, potentially reducing cost and weight – two significant challenges facing batteries today.”
GM has been building this in-house capability for years, expanding electric motor research and development, design and validation capabilities at facilities in Michigan, Indiana and California. GM also has developed state-of-the-art math-based design and computing capacity for electric motors. The electric motors will be manufactured in the U.S. at a GM facility.
GM was selected in August by the U.S. Department of Energy for a $105-million grant for the construction of U.S. manufacturing capabilities to produce electric motors and related electric drive components. “The new GM is about speed, and we are delivering quickly on the government’s desire to grow domestic expertise in electric vehicle technologies, such as batteries and electric motors,” Stephens said.
Similar to today’s internal combustion engines, automotive electric motors require an unparalleled combination of exceptionally low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH); high reliability and affordability that is achievable only by understanding the entire value chain. In addition to growing in-house capabilities, GM will continue to purchase and co-design electric motors with suppliers.
“This is a strategy we use today with batteries,” Stephens said. “We are partnering with suppliers to create innovations faster than ever before. Our goal is simply to establish GM as a leader in automotive electric motors. We see that leadership as a key enabler – both to our long-term success and to our nation’s move away from oil dependence.”