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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