By on August 5, 2009

GM will receive some $241 million of the government’s $2.4 billion electric vehicle (EV) stimulus grants, most of it for the “on-time and under-budget” Chevy Volt program. Other grant recipients were Chrysler ($70m), Ford ($92.7m), JCI ($299m), A123 ($249m), Compact Power ($151.4m, on behalf of LG Chem, the South Korean supplier of Chevy Volt batteries), and the National Fire Protection Association ($4.4m). Full breakdown in PDF format here. But what makes this otherwise routine subsidizing of particular interest, it’s that GM is spending its non-Volt money on . . . get this . . .

Construction of U.S. manufacturing capabilities to produce the second-generation GM global rear-wheel electric drive system.

To the tune of $105 million. No kidding. Read the PDF. Then let the reckless speculation begin!

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27 Comments on “$2.4 Billion EV Stimulus Funding: GM RWD EVs?...”

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Second generation? What was the first?

  • avatar


  • avatar

    EV1 was RWD? OMG!

    Sorry, had to do it…

  • avatar

    EV1 was WWD

  • avatar

    Here’s my reckless speculation: if you want to design a platform that can be built with an engine or as an EV, you design it so that it can be a front-wheel-drive gas/diesel-powered car with the gas tank in the back, or as a rear-wheel-drive electric car with the batteries in the front and the motor in the back.

    It’s not an INSANE idea, certainly; the same steering rack could be used in both cases (assuming the power steering unit is an electric one), if drive-by-wire throttles are spec’d they could be hooked up to either/or, and so on.

    Conceptually, it would be a clever way to future-proof your platform design, certainly.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    A pure electric vehicle could be made rear motor, rear wheel drive as the electric motor required isn’t nearly as large as a conventional motor and transmission. Just tuck the motor between the two rear wheels. Or, use one motor per wheel.

    A front motor, rear wheel drive configuration would be foolish given all the losses and rotational mass involved.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised that Tesla didn’t get any since they are the only company currently selling any EV’s. With a nice gov subsidy, maybe they could drop the roadster price to make it more affordable.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I think it’s a typo. There is no first generation RWD EV GM platform.

  • avatar

    They are probably talking about the 2nd generation of the 2-mode hybrid system used in GM’s full size SUVs and pickups.

    No Tesla killing Corvettes yet. And the above pictured Caddy concept uses the same altered FWD Cruze platform as the Volt (electric Cimarron?).

    In the future series hybrids and full electric cars will be much easier to switch between FWD, RWD and AWD then current platforms, although the rear suspensions will need to be strengthened if the motor(s) is(are) put in the back. Still, much easier than the hassle that Toyota is having with the on-again, off-again RWD Subayota.

  • avatar

    RWD makes more sense for EVs. The motors are compact enough so that you can throw them in the back without taking the hit for drivetrain losses found in FWD cars. There’s no need for a driveshaft or anything, since you can keep the batteries in the front, and high-current wires directly to two motors in the back. No need for a diff either, since you can just control each motor independently.

  • avatar

    I think we need to think outside the gasoline box. why would we not have E-motors in the wheels? Isn’t the purpose of developping an EV platform to get rid of the limitations the ICE gives us?
    Batteries could be flat on the bottom over the entire car. This would make room for all kind of concepts, trunk front and back, all kinds of things.AWD could be easily implemented. One also could use the wheel motors to bring torque differently to wheels. A whole new concept of VSC with single wheels not only breaking to stabilize the car, but single wheels accelerating to stabilize the car.
    Sure, EV have limitations namely the battery. But a whole lot of opportunities. The only reason our cars look like they are and are categorized in FWD, RWD and AWD is because one always needs the cooler in front, all kind of liquids, one central power plant, transmission etc. Once we get rid of all that we can design much differently in a way to make the care more practical.
    Isn’t that the idea of developing a new platform and not just converting a ICE platform?

    but of course, it is GM and how could we expect them to do something creative that is good. Making decisions, being progressive, have new ideas and all that stuff. Same old same old…

  • avatar

    I would fully expect to see cooling systems incorporated in the future as the power demands on the inverter will surpass traditional and the more non-traditional air cooling currently beind employed. I think a water cooled inverter and possibly same for battery package will almost surely be in the future, give the appetite for motor kw / power as well as the array of accesories and power monitoring and control electronics..

  • avatar

    @Paul Niedermeyer, for a few years just before World War I there were GMC electric trucks marketed by General Motors. They were rear-wheel-drive. However, I doubt it that those are considered to be the first-generation rwd platform suggested in the article.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    venator: high five; you’re my kind of guy (I’m assuming you’re a guy).

  • avatar

    Paul, your assumption is indeed correct, if I was a female, my name would be venatrix. Enough of flaunting my familiarity with lingua romana, however. I believe that in the 1970s GM had an electric Chevette prototype running, I seem to vaguely remember them having to equip it with an extra (trailing) axle to help carry the load of the battery pack. That may be their first-generation rwd electric, perhaps?

  • avatar

    I’m 99.9999999% sure they’re talking about the 2nd gen 2-mode system. That’s the only RWD program they have, and the CaddiVolt isn’t going to be RWD.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    venator: Actually, there were others too, most notably Electrovair I and II:

    Very expensive silver-zinc (I think) batteries in front, and electric motor on the rear transaxle.

  • avatar

    The auto industry is starting over. 100 years ago those who had a good set of wrenches were bolting ICE’s to carriages and starting car companies.

    Gradually we have drifted down to just a few auto companies and only Ford may survive from the dozens of auto companies we had in the U.S.

    But now those who stayed awake in 9th grade science class are playing with motors and batteries.

    I just rebuilt an electric bike with new lithium batteries and friends have converted several regular bikes to electric power and are considering starting a company. A company in the UK is converting Citroens to all electric and a toy company in Japan has started to make electric cars. Several garages now add more batteries to Prius cars.

    It is a fun time as we learn the pluses and minuses of AC and DC motors, how to deal with the great torque of electric motors, where to put the much smaller motors, but also deal with the weight of batteries.

    For a while we will be able to buy strange vehicles from shade tree mechanics but gradually laws and survival of the fittest will consolidate the auto world again. The cycle will repeat itself until another species takes over from us.

  • avatar

    Yeah. For pick ups.

    Why is RWD electric stupid ? Cos of the extra weight and the transmission loss through the differential, which substantially reduces the range.

    But fullsize pick-ups are pretty ‘stupid’ anyway, and they have to develop vehicles they can actually sell.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    Transmission loss through the diff? Either use seperate motors for both wheels, or a transversally mounted motor with a transaxle. Easy.

    RWD electric is not stupid. Some people want RWD.

  • avatar

    Granted, RWD might be undesirable to mainstream drivers. But in this configuration, it might appeal to hardcore driving enthusiasts who enjoy putting the hammer down and unleashing the raw power of a blender motor.

  • avatar

    It’s funny that before this thread, I’ve never given FWD vs RWD in electrics a thought – primarily because I always assumed that the motors would be at the wheels (four of them) with the batteries placed wherever workable and convenient.

    You know, like Ferdinand Porsche did back in 1901.

  • avatar

    The fisker karma is RWD. It has 2 E’motors, 1 slung either side of the rear axle.

    Batteries slung low and down the middle and a small eco-tec engine upfront just for battery charging should there be a need.

    This means still plenty of room out back for the golf clubs as the 2 x204bhp blender motors ;) are relatively small. Yay !

    …..and here are those blender motors in action but sounding more like an F18 :)

  • avatar

    In-wheel motor systems are being actively developed, see for example:

    This would be great. Have a motor problem? Just swap the wheel and be on your way…

  • avatar

    I like petroleum better.

  • avatar

    I like petroleum better.

    I’ll second that. At least until electric cars can outperform ICE in performance, durability, and convenience. That might take awhile.

  • avatar

    durability is already there*

    *depending on battery, electric engines are bullet proof compared with gasoline engines

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