Is This Your Future Hybrid And Electric Car Motor?

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GE Prototype Electric Motor

GE Prototype Electric Motor

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General Electric scientists have developed a prototype electric motor designed to improve the performance and efficiency of hybrid and electric vehicles.

The Interior Permanent Magnet traction motor improves on existing designs in several key areas, and would result in hybrids and electric vehicles with greater range, better performance and better cooling characteristics.

GE says the motor has twice the power density of existing designs, theoretically offering twice the acceleration capabilities. It's also 3-5 percent more efficient, an impressive feat considering the efficiency of electric motors is already very high.

It can also use lower voltage DC power--200 volts versus 650 volts--has almost twice the temperature tolerance of current motors, and for hybrid applications, can be cooled using existing engine coolant, rather than a separate system.

For the hybrid or electric car of the future, there are plenty of benefits.

Improved power density means the motor need not be as large to produce the same output, freeing up space for other components in the car, and allowing more packaging freedom for engineers. It also uses less power, which immediately has an impact on improving range, even with existing battery types.

Low weight is beneficial too, as is the added simplicity of using a single cooling system in hybrids. This further reduces weight, improving efficiency and performance. Reducing complexity also has another benefit--reduced cost.

GE still needs to do further reliability testing before the motor can be put into production, and the team also intends to develop a similarly-efficient motor that doesn't require rare earth magnets in its construction, with the environmental benefits that suggests.

The humble electric motor is sometimes overlooked in favor of improved battery tech when improving EV and hybrid efficiency, but between the GE motor and unique designs like Protean's "inside-out" wheel motor design, there's clearly a lot of potential left in electric propulsion.


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Comments (9)
  1. The variant that doesn't depend for cost on China's rare earth monopoly sounds promising. Not sure about the connection between using less power and range though. To put out the same KW lower power (V) just means higher current (A). Of course 3-5% better efficiency would (marginally) increase range.

    I wonder how this stacks up to Tesla's design though. Tesla's induction motor motor is rare earth free, air cooled, draws power from large packs which I think makes the lower operating voltage less interesting and is mounted already extremely efficient between the rear wheels.

    Maybe this is mostly interesting for hybrids with small battery packs and serious packaging problems for the large number of parts they contain.

  2. The axial-flux electric motor by inventor Chris Hunter of Wasilla Alaska has the potential for 300 miles plus per charge with the use of unique battery controller and a bank of 32 lawn mower sized 12 volt batteries. About the size of an automatic transmission from a corolla and develops hp comensurate with electric input.Paul Havlik are you reading? Hope to see it yet this year.

  3. Can we get more information than this? mentioned this design has a peak power of 55KW. That is about 73 HP. Only enough to power cars such as MIEV or smaller... Unless you add multiple of it and use it on all 4 wheels...

  4. @Xiaolong Li..Do you know anything about ceramic magnet motors? Many moons ago in another life I raced slot cars with a very very light weight ceramic magnet motor. If this could scale up it certainly would solve the weight problem.

  5. Ceramic magnets aren't anything special. They are the older grey colored magnets used in DC motors and speakes and various toys. It is brittle but cheap to manufacture. Typically a low power application would use it. ALNICO are better. Rare earth metals such as NdFeB, SMCo5 are all more powerful and better at high power applications. They do require REM though.

  6. There was very little extra info included in the press release:

    I expect any power estimates are fairly academic at this stage as the motor appears to be in fairly early stages of development. I presume it can be both scaled up and scaled down.

  7. I just hope we get to see it in a production car sooner rather then later.

  8. @CDspeed - fully agree with you. I reckon they should do real world trails sooner rather than later. I would be willing to trail that motor for them if they give me a prototype and I can give them heaps of feedback. That would help them perfect their motors quicker.

  9. great - another possibility of things to come.

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