From home appliances to children’s toys, electric motors are all around us and have nearly a century of automotive use dating to Charles Kettering’s invention of the electric starter first used in 1912. With the emergence of electric vehicles, electric motors also will play a bigger part in future vehicles.
“We’ve spent the past few years highlighting our in-house battery capability, which will play a significant role as one of our core competencies going forward,” said Larry Nitz, GM executive director of Vehicle Electrification Engineering. "Electric motor development and manufacturing is another area of expertise we’ll need as we expand vehicle electrification technologies to address the needs of our customers around the world.”
Chevrolet is highlighting its expertise in electric motors at a pilot facility in Wixom, a Detroit suburb, in advance of beginning the domestic production of electric motors at GM’s plant in White Marsh, Md., near Baltimore in late 2012. Specifically, equipment and processes to be used at White Marsh are being validated and tested in Wixom.
Conventionally powered vehicles on the road today have a variety of electric motors to power seats, windows, windshield washers and other functions. Electric motors are used in hybrid and electric vehicles to move the drive wheels to propel the vehicle. Electricity is stored in a battery and feeds power to the electric motor to drive the wheels.
GM is focused on the development of permanent magnet and induction motors for a variety of applications. During a recent tutorial at the Wixom facility, news media were given the opportunity to hand build portions of a permanent magnet motor, the exact 85 kW (114 hp) permanent magnet motor configuration that will be used in the recently announced Chevrolet Spark electric vehicle to debut in 2013.
The White Marsh facility will produce electric motors for the Spark and other future vehicles. Currently, GM uses electric motors as part of the propulsion system in nine vehicles including the Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Malibu Eco, Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, Buick Lacrosse eAssist, Buick Regal eAssist, GMC Sierra Hybrid, GMC Yukon and Yukon Denali Hybrid, and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid.