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Electric motors escape the worst of the automotive decline

30 October, 2009

Despite the problems in the global automotive market, sales of electric motors for automotive duties are still growing in some areas, according to a new report. The analyst IMS Research says that the continuing growth of vehicle sales in regions such as China and South America, the increasing use of actuated systems in vehicles, and the adoption of new technologies requiring motors, has helped soften the drop in demand.

Sales of some types of electrical motors – such as brushless DC machines – are holding up better than others. Between 2007 and 2009, global sales of all motors for automotive applications are estimated to have fallen by almost 20%, from 2.3 billion units. By contrast, sales of brushless DC motors are estimated to slipped by just 6% over the same period.
Nevertheless, number of brushless DC motors being used in automotive applications is still relatively small, accounting for about 5% of motors used in the sector. Also many high-volume applications, such as seat adjustment or window actuation, only require intermittent operation. So while brushless DC motors may be used in some top-end vehicles – mainly because of their low noise levels – this is not true for the mass market.
“In spite of the higher cost of these products, the greater reliability and energy efficiency as well as longer lifetimes of brushless DC motors, make them popular in applications with high duty cycles,” says the report’s co-author, Alex West. “Already many fuel pump applications have switched from brushed to brushless. This replacement trend is expected to continue in water pump applications, such as in cooling systems.”

Other applications also using this technology include dual-clutch and automated manual transmission, as well as HVAC and power steering systems. As the market for electric and hybrid vehicles increases, this is expected to spur demand for the more efficient brushless DC motors.

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