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GM Promises Electric Motors By 2013 After $246m Investment

Gordon Kelly


GM Promises Electric Motors By 2013 After $246m Investment

Today is the 27 January and we all know what that means... that until 6pm GMT I will publish the most unrelated Apple news stories I can find!

So it is with great pleasure I tell you General Motors has announced it is ready to throw its considerable weight behind the iTablet electric car. The company has agreed to invest $246m into a new in-house electric motor design and manufacturing facility, the long term aim of which is to churn out the first GM built electric engines and real-wheel-drive two-mode Hybrid engines by 2013.

"Electric motor innovation supported the first wave of automotive growth a century ago with the electric starter, which eliminated the need for a hand crank, and revolutionized automotive travel for the customer," said Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman, Global Product Operations. "We think the electrification of today’s automobiles will be just as revolutionary and just as beneficial to our customers. Electric motors will play a huge role in that."

"In the future, electric motors might become as important to GM as engines are now,” Stephens added. "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."

Grand as this all sounds GM did get a hefty $105m grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to kick start this move so when Stephens goes on to talk about helping "our nation’s move away from oil dependence" it's not all out of the goodness of his heart.

Now as many of you know, I have issues with electric cars and am a much bigger fan of hydrogen, but we'll steer clear of that this time around. Instead I shall remain neutral and definitely not say anything bad about this heavy, short range, impractical and expensive technology the car industry is now so clearly behind. *cough*


Press Release


January 27, 2010, 7:04 pm

Gordon, totally agree with you. I just don't get where they are going with the electric motor. I am no engineer, but the biggest problem seems to be the fuel itself (i.e. range, refuel time, etc).


January 27, 2010, 8:04 pm

What's so great about hydrogen? The main method of hydrogen production in the world today is from natural gas - hardly an environmentally friendly solution!

I can't help but think that $246m of investment would turn that quirky French compressed air car into something practical and greener. (Low intensity renewables like solar could power pumps to fill up air storage tanks at home all day. Then you can fill up your car's tank in just a few seconds. Worst that can go wrong is a leak - much safer than hydrogen too!)

Let's face it, the greenest solutions aren't the ones big business stands to make the most money from.


January 27, 2010, 8:32 pm

So how exactly is your Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle supposed to do anything without electric motors?

Sir Stuie

January 27, 2010, 8:42 pm

Agreed, while I do think electric engines are a possibility for improved efficiency, its a dead end on reducing dependence on fossil fuels.


January 27, 2010, 8:52 pm

@Blueport -> If mankind has managed to get oil from the depths of places like the North Sea, surely, with the right investment and research, we can find a sensible way of extracting hydrogen! It is not exactly in short supply!


January 27, 2010, 9:46 pm

@Xiphias - My thoughts exactly! Unless you're talking about a hydrogen combustion engine, but I've heard nothing them since a BMW dual-fuel prototype some years back.

Anything that is likely to increase the practicality of the electric motor for use in consumer vehicles is, imho, a good thing. This applies regardless of the power source driving the engine in the first place - even if they're not eliminating reliance on fossil fuels, a sharp reduction in usage is still something worth aiming for in the mid-term future.

I agree on one general point, though - putting these things in hybrid cars is fundamentally stupid.


January 27, 2010, 10:04 pm

I have 4 problems with electric cars:

1) The very short drive distance. Yes some have said that they can go approximately 125 miles but try that in stop and go traffic. I would be surprised if they get half that.

2) The life of the batteries. They will need replacing some time and when that happens where will they go. Into the land fills and end up polluting the ground water.

3) Consumer reports a while back did a heads up comparison between a comparable hybrid and a standard car using the same makes and models. If I remember right most of the gas cars actuality did better then their counter parts did when it came to over all cost to run the vehicles over a given amount of years including purchase price. For the larger vehicles like the SUV&#8217s it seems to me that it was more or less a push.

4) Where is all this electricity coming from? Fossil fuels like coal, which pollute more then most.

One more thing in the late 60&#8217s or early 70&#8217s GM came out with an electric car that went nowhere. You would think that they would have learned by now that an all-electric car is not the answer.


January 27, 2010, 10:32 pm

The problem with Hydrogen is infrastructure. It's relatively easy to power an electric car.

Martin Daler

January 27, 2010, 11:48 pm

OK, so the iPad is out now...where is the gen?


January 28, 2010, 1:10 am


The chemistry of getting hydrogen out of water is dead easy. The problem is that it takes a lot of energy. Which, as things stand at the moment, comes from fossil fuels or nuclear. So until that egg has been cracked we're no further forward. (Before you point it out, I admit that the compressed air solution has the same drawback, although it requires less energy, I guess).

What about the idea of running a combustion engine, but with hydrogen as the fuel? Has that fallen completely out of fashion?


January 28, 2010, 1:59 am

Electric Cars are the way forward personally. Battery technology has moved on rapidly in the past 10 years and very quickly electric cars have improved dramatically. Ultra capacitors give crazy acceleration and the distribution would be relatively simple (waaaaaay simplier than a hydrogen economy). Just look at the tesla roadster already!


200mile plus charge distance (way better than what people are presuming)

120mpg...0-60 in 3,9secs! Find any road car that goes near that.

Imagine in 5 years! Plus its far more efficient for all the power to come from one large power station be it renewable or not than from millions of individual car engines. Granted, plenty of new nuclear power stations would need to be built but the massive benefits would clear out way that not even mentioning the fact that we then wouldn't have to rely on foreign oil as much.


January 28, 2010, 2:42 am


2) No worse than current fuels that go and pollute the air after they've been used then? I don't know what the volume of the nasty stuff coming out of exhausts is currently, but if it's less than the mass of a battery over the life of the battery than that's a good thing. It may be polluting, but if it's less polluting it's a good thing.

3) Money isn't the issue, energy usage and emission are the problem.

4) Surely it's still worth developing for those us who get their energy from wind farms, hydroelectric dams and other clean sources?


January 28, 2010, 2:21 pm

Gordon - you say you're an advocate for hydrogen fuelled cars over electric, but then appear to show extreme ignorance in implying the investment on electric engines is wasted. BOTH electric vehicle and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles use electric engines in an electric drive train powering the vehicle. The only difference is the source of the electricity - pure electric vehicles use electrical storage (a battery) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles store hydrogen, which is converted into electricity in the fuel cell (i.e. the fuel cell works like a battery that you can top-up with H2 fuel). You are welcome to your opinion, but please at least be properly informed before making a judgement. There are advantages and disadvantages to both technologies (the primary advantage of H2 fuel cell vehicles is currently range - but this could change with a breakthrough in battery technology). So whether you are an advocate for EVs or H2 fuel cell vehicles, investment in electric engines (and wider electric drivetrains) is essential. The principal barrier for EVs is the battery (cost, energy storage density), the barriers for H2 vehicles include the fuel cell (cost, durability - i.e. current FC would not last the life of the vehicle), the H2 storage AND significant investment in building an entirely new gaseous refuelling infrastructure. Furthermore the production and use of hydrogen also requires vastly more primary energy than electric vehicles - to produce essentially zero carbon hydrogen you need to use renewables (or nuclear) to generate H2 via electrolysis. By the time you have used the H2 fuel in your fuel cell vehicle you will have needed almost double the amount of zero carbon electricity as you would in an electric vehicle. Since it will take quite some time for sufficient quantities of zero carbon electricity for conventional (i.e. non-transport) uses, this pushes back the time where transport fuel carbon intensity can be reduced to near zero. Basically, both technologies have challenges (for me the H2 route has a greater number of risks/uncertainties) and which one dominates in the long term will depend on what breakthroughs are made in both technologies in the future - which is uncertain.

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