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As Electric Vehicles Take Charge, Costs Power Down

January 13, 2012 - 1:29pm

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Thanks to a cost-sharing project with the Energy Department, General Motors has been able to develop the capacity to build electric and hybrid motors internally. That capacity has made cars like the upcoming Chevy Spark EV (above) possible. | Image courtesy of General Motors.

Thanks to a cost-sharing project with the Energy Department, General Motors has been able to develop the capacity to build electric and hybrid motors internally. That capacity has made cars like the upcoming Chevy Spark EV (above) possible. | Image courtesy of General Motors.

The record number of electric-drive vehicles on the floor of Detroit’s North American International Auto Show this week sends a clear message – the American auto industry is dedicated to driving innovation and delivering advanced vehicles to consumers here and around the world. We’re working with them every step of the way to help make that vision a reality. One of the keys to translating the trade show excitement around electric vehicles into widespread consumer adoption is driving down costs, and one area that continues to be a focus across the industry is reducing the cost of electric motors.

In addition to further research and development, increasing the domestic manufacturing capacity of electric motors is one of the keys to accomplishing this. Upping capacity will not only help meet growing consumer demand, but also help drive down the cost of both the motors and the vehicles that use them.

To help achieve this goal, the Energy Department has undertaken a variety of projects with industry partners to find innovative ways to design and manufacture electric motors. On one such project, the Department teamed with Delphi Automotive Systems in an effort to reduce the cost, size and weight of electric motors by using patented semiconductor packaging technology. The result of this cost-sharing partnership is new packaging that is smaller, lighter weight and allows more power to be produced than previous methods.

Additionally, Delphi also received a competitively-awarded $89.3 million award under the Recovery Act to expand its manufacturing of power electronics for electric-drive vehicles. Delphi is matching these funds dollar-for-dollar and the funding has allowed them to retool a formerly vacant manufacturing facility for the project and build a new testing and engineering laboratory. The result? Delphi is currently increasing production of their power electronics and already has enough orders on file to account for total production through 2015.

Delphi is just one example of the competitively awarded, cost-sharing projects that the Department is undertaking with automakers and their suppliers. A similar projects has allowed Magna E-Car to manufacture the electric vehicle motor control unit and motor for the recently unveiled Ford Focus EV in Grand Blanc, Michigan. Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, is building the electric drive transaxles for the 2013 Focus C-MAX hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. And GM, thanks to $105 million in Energy Department support, now has the capacity to develop and manufacture electric motors for hybrid and electric vehicles such as the recently announced Chevy Spark.

These cost-sharing projects are helping to turn innovative advanced vehicles that might have otherwise been merely trade show concepts into a consumer reality. They are creating jobs while lowering costs for consumers and pushing the auto industry forward -- helping American manufacturers lead the way with innovative, efficient vehicles. So while cutting-edge cars like the Ford Focus Electric and the Chevy Spark might be relegated to the auto show floor for the moment, it won’t be long before they become a familiar sight on car lots and roads across the country.

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