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.
GM has been getting electric motors for those vehicles from suppliers, but wants to make the motors in-house in order to lower costs and improve quality and reliability.
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.
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 said it will invest $246 million on a high volume electric motor production facility.
“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.”