General Motors' next-generation full-size Two-Mode Hybrid pickup trucks will arrive in 2013 with all-new electric motors designed and manufactured in-house by the company.
Tom Stephens, GM's vice chairman of global product operations, said Monday that understanding and controlling the production of electric motors will be critical if GM is to satisfy customer demands as vehicle buyers become more familiar with electric-driven cars and trucks.
"If you [control the manufacturing of] electric drives, batteries and controls, you can mix and match and do anything you want to do," Stephens said. "You have that capability to make it happen. GM intends to design and manufacture some electric motors. We're going to do that because we think customers are going to expect improvements in efficiency and performance and affordability. The best way for us to be able to satisfy those customers is to be able to have this knowledge."
GM's current Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Two-Mode Hybrids combine an electrically variable transmission that houses two 60kW electric motors with a multi-displacement 6.0-liter V-8 gas engine. Depending on engine load, the electric motors alone can drive the truck up to 25 mph. As the V-8 kicks in, the electric motors seamlessly support it, individually or in tandem, at low and high speeds, helping the engine enter fuel-saving four-cylinder mode sooner and stay in it longer to achieve better fuel economy. Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions are EPA rated at 21/22 mpg city/highway.
The electric motors used in the hybrid drivetrain are made from a small set of components that includes laminated steel, copper wire, insulation around the wire, magnets, precision bearings and a cooling system.
Pete Savagian, GM's engineering director, hybrid and electric architecture and electric motors, said the new Two-Mode architecture will feature 25 percent smaller packaging of the electric motors and improved cooling. The motors will also be smoother, quieter and more affordable.
"We need to take our expertise in several technologies, like transmissions and controls and then add this motor technology to it," said Savagian. "If we do all of that, we can come up with a very efficient electric drive system."
The motors won't just be more efficient, they'll be stronger too. Stephens said they'll have 20 percent greater power output. What does that mean for GM's haulers? Last year, GM promised its next-gen Two-Mode Hybrid pickups would see a 50 percent improvement in towing capacity using the enhanced components that Stephens and Savagian described.
GM is investing $246 million to build a dedicated manufacturing plant -- at a site that's still to be announced -- as well as making investments in electromagnetic computational facilities and powertrain testing facilities. $105 million will be provided through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
GM's future Two-Mode Hybrid system will be used solely by GM. The current Two-Mode Hybrid powertrain was developed in cooperation with BMW, Chrysler and Daimler. Chrysler has said that a new 2010 Ram 1500 Two-Mode Hybrid model will arrive later this year combined with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.
After 2012, Chrysler will have to use its own hybrid powertrain if the Ram is to continue to be offered with a gas-electric propulsion system.