GE Scientists Successfully Test Prototype Electrified Vehicle Traction Motor

While many are looking at battery technology to improve the range of electric vehicles, other components can also yield energy savings contributing to extending the range. A team of GE engineers is focusing on the electric motor itself.

GE recently tested a prototype Interior Permanent Magnet traction motor, developed as part of a $5.6 million U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) project, that could help extend the range EVs and hybrids can travel before recharging or needing gasoline.

Traction motors are the key part of the propulsion system that converts electrical energy into motion to drive hybrid and electric vehicles. The GE-designed motor is less costly to make and lab testing revealed that it is more powerful and more efficient than what is on the market today.

Combined, the additional power output and efficiency will help increase the range of EVs and delay the point at which hybrids switch to gasoline.

GE’s prototype traction motor operates at a peak power level of 55 kilowatts. According to GE, the prototypes exceeds state-of-the-art motors in the same class in several key areas:

• Nearly twice the power density (acceleration)

• 3-5 percent more efficient

• Required torque achieved using much lower DC bus voltage – as low as 200 volts versus 650 volts

• Operates continuously at a higher temperature; no need for dedicated cooling loop

“This is a significant accomplishment. We at GE are pushing the boundaries to build more robust, yet more efficient motors for hybrid and fully electric platforms,” said Ayman El-Refaie, electrical engineer, in GE Global Research’s Electrical Machines Lab. “We have built a motor that is substantially more powerful than what’s commercially available now, all while improving efficiency by up to 5 percent.”

Unlike conventional traction motors, which run at 65ºC and require their own dedicated cooling loop, GE’s motor operates continuously at 105ºC over a wide speed range (2,800 – 14,000 rpm at 30 kw) and can be cooled with engine coolant.

A hybrid vehicle would be lighter and cost less if equipped with ah electrical engine not needing additional cooling lines.

GE has built several prototypes of this new motor. It’s been fully tested in the lab and demonstrated for the DOE, but further testing must be done for reliability before commercial production is considered.

“This technology is scalable and flexible enough that it can be leveraged in a number of capacities,” said El-Refaie. “What we learned through this project will help us build higher efficiency industrial motors, high-speed oil and gas compressor motors, and generators for aerospace applications.”

Another important accomplishment of this project was the development of high-resistivity (3X) permanent magnets. This high resistivity will significantly lessen magnet losses and reduce or eliminate the need to segment the magnets. This will help keep costs down even more.

A four-year project will follow-up on this work, as GE engineers set out to build a comparably performing motor with no rare-earth magnets.

  • Roy_H

    Wow, do these companies sure know how to get lots of money from the government. Tesla developed their own motor as did several other companies like Rasa and GM. Some people think Tesla was greedy getting a $465M LOAN, to design and build an entire car and here GE gets more than 10x GRANT just for a motor! 3% to 5% more efficient than the “state of the art”, good luck, the best motors are already 97%-98% efficient. This is nothing more than corporate welfare.

  • John K.

    @Roy H:

    From the article’s 2nd paragraph, “GE recently tested a prototype Interior Permanent Magnet traction motor, developed as part of a $5.6 million U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) project….”

    From your post: “Some people think Tesla was greedy getting a $465M LOAN, to design and build an entire car and here GE gets more than 10x GRANT just for a motor!”

    Did you misread the $5.6 million thinking it was billion? Or was the article edited going from billion to million after you posted? Or am I missing something???

  • Roy_H

    Obviously I thought it said billion. But I still think it is something GE should have done on it’s own dime like the other companies. The claims are too vague to quantify and looks more like catch-up to me rather than real advancements. The simplest way to get twice the hp out of an electric motor is to spin it twice as fast. However this requires far more expensive high speed electronics to achieve and does not in itself prove a “superior” motor. Tesla gets about 300hp at 5000rpm from a 70lb motor. so theirs is 1/4 the power, is it more or less than 17 lbs?

    Operating at 200V vs 600 is neither better or worse. All motors can be wound to operate at different voltages. However higher voltages means you can provide the power with a smaller guage wire. It is the savings in wire size that drives manufacturers to choose 450V to 650V motors for EVs.

  • Anonymous

    at lot of things are developed through gov’s funding for everyone to benefit. it can be a win-win-win situation for gov, people, and company. i don’t see anything wrong with this approach as long as the results are shared.

    hybrid car is a good example of that. w/o gov subsidy to the consumer, prius probably would be just another fantasy car. now that prius is matured, the gov benefited from reduced oil consumption, people benefited from affordable hybrid car, and company earns a profit.

  • Van

    Government funded schooling: Government is the mother of invention. Privately funded schooling, Necessity is the mother of invention.

    The difference you see is in a government funded project, if the money is squandered, those involved do not lose, whereas in a privately funded project, if the project is ill conceived, those involved lose.

    In the government scheme, then research can be funded not based on success but upon political affiliation, i.e green bundlers get grants.

  • Anonymous


    what’s your back-up on your generalizations? can you give examples?

    it works both ways. as you said, privately funded projects can lose, and the lost can end up costing the tax payers as well. most recent examples being reckless lending by banks or bp oil spills. gov had no choice but to act for the greater good of the people.

    rather than paying for a mess after the fact, gov funding can work exactly the opposite of the bailout situation. gov can create opportunities down the road by investing ahead, laying foundations for growth. let’s face it, if gov does not take a lead on big projects such as nasa and interstate highways, private industries would never do it because the cap cost is prohibitive, risk is high, and profit/market size is questionable at best.

    private or public, a project in its infancy tend to be expensive. gov spending may not be the most efficient, but i just don’t see any private companies that would step up on bold initiatives without gov’s help if risks are high and there is no immediate profits for them.

  • Van

    Hi Anonymous, my back-up is history. Recall the government run countries, i.e. Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Red China.

    How does privately funded research end up costing the tax payers? Certainly the corporation that paid for the research would have lower profits to tax, but only an insane view would claim that as an expense for the remaining tax payers. On the other hand, if the research bears fruit, the the corporation would produce more taxable profits. Thus private funding is inherently adverse to unproductive expenditure, whereas government funding can go south big time.

    Let me be clear, government funding does not lay the groundwork for a more successful future, it works against a more successful future. The Soviet economic model provided 70 years of misery, constrained innovation, and created a culture of corruption.

    The interstate system was and is a good thing, and so government does have a role in our economy, just as DARPA spending to enable our future national security is important.

    But the list of government funded research grants includes all sorts of back scratching expenditures to the left leaning professors, echoing soviet style corruption.

  • Anonymous

    gov run countries? which great country isn’t run by some sort of gov?

    like it or not, a great country needs mix of public and private to be great, such as this public private partnership (ppp) project. just like private projects, not all public projects will be successful. to decry all ppp projects because an ideology that do not accept mix of other views is too simplistic (e.g. all projects must be either public/privately funded). the world is more complicated than that.

  • Van

    Hi Anonymous, for you to say I “decry all ppp projects” after I supported privately funded research and some government funded research seems disingenuous.

    Next to suggest I did not address the need for a mix seems disingenuous.

    I indicated by government run countries, I was referring to those whose economy was of the central command and control variety, like the three I mentioned.

    So to repeat necessity, not government, is the mother of invention. Government is however, the mother of corruption, the real threat to liberty and innovation, and should not turn me into a slave, unable to keep what I earn by the sweat of my brow, or exercise other individual rights.

  • Anonymous

    red china, as cited in one of your 3 examples, is doing just fine last i checked. as matter of fact, they seems to be buying a lot of US debts.

    going back to your original point that gov funding can be for political affiliations. so can private research in case you missed all the researches from tobacco industries. privately funded research are not as objective as you think. the research to support smoking which delayed regulations has cost tax payers billions in deaths and medical bills. the cost may not be direct, but it is certainly a major contribution to it. to suggest private does not cause corruption is also disingenuous.

    so again, arguing about gov vs private funded projects is stupid because some projects are fit for gov, some for private, and some for both. if gov doesn’t set the bar, it will be race to the bottom (e.g health, environment). sure, private might survive on necessity, but is it within the best interest of people to live at the edge of necessity? i don’t think so. i for one glad gov took initiatives on important issues such as clean air/water/energy because i’d hate to be living on oxygen tanks and bottled water until private sector steps in. there are countries that are operating like that already because of weak gov foresight.

    if you disagree researching clean water, air, energy, health, etc does not lay groundwork for future opportunities, i don’t know which country you are coming from.

  • Van

    Red China starting making progress when they started allowing folks to earn via market economy.

    Private funding of research, not pseudo-science propaganda, will improve our future far more effectively than government funded boondoggles. As far as pseudo-sceince propaganda, that is not helpful, whether funded by government per leftist doctrine or corporations to continue profitable but poisonous behavior.

    The idea is when a corporation is corrupt, truth will find them out and they will be no more. Think Enron. However, when a government is corrupt, it uses the power of the law to sustain and enlarge its core corruption. Think Nazi Germany.

    Arguing in an effort to seek the truth is never stupid, but those who disparage others rather than address the topic are using a logical fallacy to support fiction.

    Again, your style of command and control government, where those who see themselves as the smartest people in the room, decide what the rest of us slaves should eat, drink, and do has been tried in the Soviet Union and result was 70 years of misery including the murder of over 30 million people.

    Final point, compare the Three Mile island disaster where a corporately funded, and government regulated design failed but killed no one with Chernobyl with its government funded design which killed over 2000 people within a month and shortened perhaps 20,000 lives. Analysis revealed that a culture of lying permitted gross failure to adhere to safety in both its design and operation.

  • Anonymous

    sorry to pop the bubbles van… you are just looking at glass half empty/full. i believe one of your main points was gov research tend not to lay foundations for future growths and fosters corruption. can’t say i’m convinced based on whatever ideology you believe in.

    the key is optimal mix of the two, which the ge research is doing. this is very similar to raising children. giving the children everything they want will spoil them but not nurturing them will also stunt their growth. this has everything to do with a balanced approach and nothing to do with extreme ideologies of left or right.

    going back to your examples… red china clearly has a stronger central gov than the usa, and they are doing just fine. despite what victors of WW painted nazi germany (which is clearly evil, as with most aggressors of war), their innovations weren’t exactly lacking because of your proclaimed strong gov structure. many technologies (e.g. rocketry, jets) were harvested by the allies when they defeated them. they lost the war because they took on more than they can chew and pissed off too many countries.

    other examples of strong central gov that did well? ancient china, lots of innovations were discovered with the right emperor and policies.

    the point is, while i do not advocate totalitarianism, don’t confuse more liberty with increased innovation. just like many things in nature, there is a diminishing return on both ends of the spectrum. a gov that is too weak can’t defend against things like private warlords, crimes, stagnate economy, etc, all of which are not conducive to innovation. a gov too strong can also cause problems if there is no healthy competition.

    extreme regimes occur in public or private form

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