General Motors is of the opinion that it will be able to reduce costs and improve performance, quality, reliability and manufacturability of electric motors by doing it themselves. So they’ve set out to try to design and build their own and have set 2013 as a targeted debut year. The GM-designed and built motors will see first use in a two-mode hybrid system for rear wheel drive vehicles. This sounds like trucks, trucks and more trucks – the Volt and Cruze are front wheel drive.

“In the future, electric motors might become as important to GM as engines are now. 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,” says Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman, Global Product Operations.

The GM two-mode hybrid system runs like its namesake in two modes. It is capable to run the car in an EV-only zero emissions mode. The two two modes are the ‘input mode’ and the ‘compound split’ mode. The ‘input mode’ is used for moving from a stop, driving at low speeds, and towing, basically any vehicle situation where you need more torque. This mode runs in gear 1 and 2 and can run either with electric power only, engine power only, or both. The compound split mode is used for cruising. In this mode, the electric motors only help the combustion engine when they are needed.

GM claims that they’ve been working at preparing for this for years now, and that the electric motors would be built in the US at a GM facility. They probably couldn’t do it any other way, since they received US$105 million from the US government sometime in the second half of last year with the intention that the money be used for the R&D and manufacturing of electric motors and related drive components in the US. If they decide to go with more cost effective countries, they would probably have to return the money.

But while they dump money into motor R&D, they are also planning to continue to work with suppliers to co-design electric motors and buy them. “This is a strategy we use today with batteries. 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,” added Stephens.

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