While batteries might draw the spotlight, automakers know they also need to develop more advanced electric motors if they hope to compete in the growing battery-electric vehicle market.
General Motors today unveiled a family of three motors that will do the grunt work when it starts rolling out its next-generation BEVs, starting with the GMC Hummer, later this year. While it might be a stretch, you can think of then as electrified alternatives to today’s 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder internal combustion engines.
All three of the new motors were developed in-house, much like the company’s new Ultium batteries, said GM president Mark Reuss, during an event on Mackinac Island, Michigan on Tuesday.
“Twenty years of electric drive system development and more than 100 years of high-volume vehicle engineering are helping GM pivot quickly from conventional vehicles to EVs,” Reuss said at the annual conference sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Our vertical integration in this space, encompassing both hardware and software, helps give us control over our own destiny and a significant competitive advantage.”
Targeting different applications
The new motors include:
- A high-performance DC permanent magnet design capable of making 255 kilowatts, or 347 horsepower. It will be used in both front and rear locations on vehicles like the new GMC Hummer EV which will pair three to deliver more than 1,000 hp;
- A slightly smaller permanent magnet motor making 180 kW, or 245 hp. It will be used in less performance-oriented applications but can be paired with both the 255 kW motors as well as;
- A 62 kW, or 84 hp, AC induction motor that can be used in small, low-performance vehicles. This motor also can be mounted on a vehicle’s rear axle and paired with one of the bigger, permanent magnet motors to create an all-wheel-drive system.
The motors will be critical to delivering the sort of performance electric vehicles will need deliver in the near- and long-term future. But they will face other challenges, stressed Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst with Guidehouse Insights.
Smaller, lighter, more powerful — and cheaper
Delivering plenty of power will be critical, but so will efficiency. They’ll need to get the most miles per kilowatt-hour to ensure a BEV has competitive range.
And automakers need to reduce costs. One step is to make next-gen motors easier to assemble, largely by machine. But it also requires minimizing the use of rare earth metals, as well as copper.
The two larger induction motors, GM noted in a statement, were “designed with the aim of minimizing reliance on heavy rare earth materials.”
Plenty of competition
GM is by no means the only automaker putting a priority on developing more advanced motors. Startup Lucid has developed its own design, and it bills them as an essential contributor to both performance and range. The new Air Dream models can deliver a max of more than 1,100 horsepower and more than 520 miles of range.
Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, acquired Yasa, a company that has developed extremely small, high-performance motors that will power future models from its AMG division.
So, while developing more advanced batteries will remain critical to the future of BEVs, motors will play an increasingly crucial role, as well.