Powering Up for an Electric Future
By Pete Savagian
Hybrid Powertrain Systems Engineering Director
Today we announced a $246 million investment and to me it’s more than just another big dollar figure from an automotive company. It’s an investment in people, jobs, knowledge and our future.
The $246 million investment will fund GM’s expansion of in-house electric vehicle development capabilities and make us the first major U.S. automaker to design and manufacture electric motors, which is a core technology for hybrids and electric vehicles.
This investment also allows us to add more jobs and continue expanding electric motor research and development, design and validation capabilities already under way at facilities in Michigan, Indiana and California. As part of a U.S. Department of Energy $105 million grant awarded in August 2009, our White Marsh, Maryland transmission plant alone will create about 200 new jobs.
It’s an investment in our company’s future. This gives us the opportunity to take our expertise in several technologies, like transmissions and controls, and add electric motor technology for an efficient electric drive system. We can’t achieve this by simply purchasing the parts from a supplier; we need to really understand them. The best way to understand and know we have the best is by controlling the design, the manufacturability, the material selection, and the production processes. Now our relationship with suppliers will be more collaborative and allow for faster innovation than ever before.
What does this mean to our customers? These electric motors are engines for hybrid and electric vehicles. They provide power to the wheels. 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. The new electric motors will be smaller, more powerful and more energy efficient. Their smaller size will allow us to use them in a variety of vehicles. The first GM electric motors will debut in 2013 in our rear-wheel-drive full-hybrid vehicles.
Did you know that electric motor innovation supported the first wave of automotive growth a century ago with the electric starter? It eliminated the need for a hand crank and revolutionized automotive travel for the customer. We think the electrification of today’s automobiles will be just as revolutionary and just as beneficial to our customers. Makes you wonder where this innovation could take us – keep watching and see.