GM to make electric motors in U.S.

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer


NEW YORK(CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors announced Tuesday that it intends to become the first major automaker to design and manufacture electric motors for cars in the United States.

Electric motors are used in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles as well as fully electric-powered vehicles.

2009_chevy_tahoe_hybrid.03.jpg
GM's first new electric motors would be used on vehicles like the next generation of the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

The first GM electric motors will be used in the next generation of the automaker's rear-wheel-drive full-hybrid vehicles such as the Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid SUV beginning in 2013.

Those next-generation vehicles will use two unique electric motor designs, the automaker said. Those electric motors will be combined with an internal combustion gasoline engine to provide improved fuel economy.

"In the future, electric motors might become as important to GM as engines are now," Tom Stephens, GM's vice president for global vehicle operations, said in a statement. "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."

Electric motors will be a core expertise for GM in the future, Stephens said, in the same way that internal combustion engines are today.

"Our goal is simply to establish GM as a leader in automotive electric motors," he said.

It will be a long time before the internal combustion engine is entirely supplanted by the electric motor, he said, but the two technologies will exist side-by-side, often in the same vehicle, for some time to come.

The new electric motors will be smaller, more powerful and more energy efficient, Stephens said. Their smaller size will allow them to be used in a broader variety of vehicles than those used today in GM's hybrid SUVs.

GM will still purchase some electric motors from outside suppliers, said Peter Savagian, GM's director of engineering for hybrid vehicles.

"Our intention is not to make all of our electric motors but to make some of them," he said.

Having in-house expertise in electric motors will also allow GM to deal more effectively with suppliers, Savagian said.

GM was selected in August by the U.S. Department of Energy to receive a $105 million grant for the construction of U.S. manufacturing capabilities to produce electric motors and related electric drive components.

In total, GM said, it will invest $246 million in electric motor and electric drive manufacturing facilities in the U.S. The automaker will add "a couple of hundred" jobs to manufacture the engine, Stephens said in a press conference. Jobs have already been added to research and develop new electric motors at GM, he said.

In January, GM announced the start of lithium-ion battery production at a plant in Brownstown Township, Mich. Batteries from that plant will be used in the Volt electric car. To top of page

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