LOS ANGELES -- General Motors is testing a new all-wheel-drive layout for gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles that places electric motors in each of the front or rear wheels.
The system would work in front-wheel drive cars and rear-wheel-drive pickup trucks, the automaker said Monday. In cars, a gasoline-powered engine would drive the front wheels and separate electric motors would power rear wheels. The reverse would be true in pickup trucks.
GM Vice President for Research and Development Larry Burns said GM envisions producing all-wheel-drive gasoline-electric hybrids by 2010. He said an all-wheel drive hybrid with GM's wheel-motor system would improve steering, traction in bad weather, braking and acceleration.
The automaker demonstrated this by racing a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck with electric wheel motors in each of the rear wheels, against a gasoline-powered Chevrolet Camaro on a drag strip. The S-10 easily overpowered the Camaro.
Burns said the wheel motors will likely be an integral part of GMs fuel cell powertrain. A pair of wheel motors generate about 180 hp, Burns said, and deliver a 60 percent improvement in torque.
The 300-volt liquid-cooled electric motors are rated at 25 kilowatts each.