By on January 26, 2010

It’s one thing to say “the electrification of the car is inevitable” (Bob Lutz) when you’re buying the motors from suppliers. But GM is putting (somebody’s) money where their oracle’s wandering mouth is, and getting into the electric motor building business. The General has announced that $246 million dollars, of which $105 million came from a DOE grant (not loan), will be spent on facilities to build lighter, smaller and more efficient electric motors for the next generation of their two-mode hybrid system and rear-wheel drive applications. Looks like a “slim-Jim” version is being developed for a “future range of rear-drive cars”. Hmm…According to a report in Automotive News, the motors will be 25% smaller and have a 20% greater output than the ones currently used in the not-so-popular two-mode hybrid system. Additionally:

The motors will be used in GM’s next-generation rear-drive, two-mode hybrid vehicles, specifically full-sized trucks arriving in 2013. The motors are also expected to be used in a future range of rear-drive cars, GM will announce today. Savagian said the new motor will use less electricity, resulting in better fuel economy. He didn’t provide specifics.

GM currently offers a two-mode hybrid in such vehicles as the 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and Silverado pickup. They average 21 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.

Additionally, with the smaller packaging, “we will be able to utilize them in (rear-drive) cars as well,” said Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman of global product operations. He made the announcement today at the Washington auto show. No details were given for car applications. The motors will be built at a plant in White Marsh, Md., outside Baltimore, said spokesman Brian Corbett.

And what would that mysterious  “future range of rear-drive cars” be? If it’s anything other than an eventual replacement for the CTS or the smaller ATS, you got me.

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14 Comments on “GM To Build Electric Motors For “Future Range Of RWD Vehicles”...”

  • avatar

    Interesting. I’ve been told many times that FWD (transverse, at least) suffers less drivetrain loss when compared to RWD, which means that FWD is usually the more efficient drivetrain layout. And if you’re going electric, it seems like efficiency is paramount.

    I wonder if you just put the engine in the back, transverse, you’ll have the most efficient layout of all. No turning CV joints, u-joints, diffs, etc–nearly a direct connection to the wheels.

  • avatar

    I wonder if GM will have to assemble these motors with UAW/IBEW labor along with their special uncompetitive work rules (and Cadillac health plans)? If so, consider the motors uncompetitive.

    I thought GM had given up on vertical integration and decided to stick to what they arguably do best – build cars.

    Everything old is new again, but an electric motor is far more than one degree of separation from an IC engine. Next, look for GM to buy the copper mines for the motor windings. Hell, it’s just taxpayer money.

  • avatar

    I’d forgotten how beatiful the second generation Corvair was. Will anything cheaper than an Aston Martin ever look that good again?

  • avatar

    When did Automotive News stop being [sub] links?

  • avatar

    I take this a bit differently. Hopefully this will make the two mode trucks and SUV’s more affordable. But, the current two mode system was on its way into a Saturn Vue before Saturn died. If they can fit it in there, my guess is that the new one will also fit into the Lambdas and maybe the Thetas.

    As for the cars this is going into, I would expect it would be Holden’s VF cars, and if any every get brought to the states, they could be there as well.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re probably right about this: the current two-mode system is pretty good but has serious packaging problems. Getting the size down to where it can be fitted into passenger cars is probably a good thing, and (if I recall) two-mode probably fits better in rear-drivers anyway.

  • avatar
    Christy Garwood

    As a GM Salary employee, I can state facts that are already publicly available, and I can opine as long as I say the opinion is my own. Let me just state some facts and profess wonderment today.

    PN says “But GM is putting (somebody’s) money where their oracle’s wandering mouth is…” Somebody’s money could be the owners of GM at the moment, one of which is the UAW VEBA (basically a self-funded health care plan). And spokesperson Corbett said the plant will be here in the USA. I wonder if the UAW is happy that there will be new manufacturing jobs in the USA.

    And PN wonders what “the “future range of rear drive cars” be”. In addition to the CTS, GM builds rear drive cars in Australia today. So speculate away fellow commentators! My crystal ball is no clearer than yours.

  • avatar

    Maybe they’re Pontiacs…

  • avatar

    Putting electric motors at the rear minimizes one of their best features: regenerative braking.

  • avatar

    So this is the weapon that Holden will use to out ecotech Ford?
    Drop an electric motor into the Commodore where the auto box lives, batteries where the fuel tank is, or in the now vacant engine bay, electronics in the engine bay, voila! A “normal” looking PEV, no extra tooling for a new body/platform just readjust the suspension to tune it to different weight distribution. That also means you could have a mix of engine options, electric for the the conservationists and petrol for the die hard rev heads and racing.
    That also means that the kilowatt/hp numbers couldn’t be fudged. You will have a 600hp = 447kw

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