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Car-makers turn to brushless DC motors

02 May, 2013

Car-makers are turning increasingly to brushless DC motors instead of brushed DC and stepper motors, according to a new study from IMS Research, now a part of IHS. It predicts that shipments of brushless DC motors will increase by 52% between 2012 and 2017 to reach a total of more than 462m.

“Although brushed DC motors account for a majority of the motors used in automotive applications, there is relatively less growth potential for brushed DC motor shipments,“ explains Bryan Turnbough, IMS' small motors analyst. “On the other hand, DC brushless motors are being used in areas that are relatively new for electric motors in automotive applications, and that have been growing rapidly in recent years.

“Increasing sales of plug-in electric vehicles, which have powertrain and chassis systems that are electromechanically-driven,” he adds, ”are expected to provide greater growth potential for brushless DC motor shipments than for brushed DC motors.”

The brushless motors are used mainly in powertrain and chassis applications. Previously mechanically-driven applications such as power steering, transmission actuation and engine cooling systems are increasingly being electrically-powered, driving the demand for brushless DC motors. These motors offer long lives and high power densities, making them attractive for applications where space is limited and frequent operation is needed.

Automotive demand for brushed DC motors is also growing, although at a slower rate, with shipments expected to increase by 30% between 2012 and 2017. The growth for both brushed and brushless motors is being driven mainly by the growing number of cars using more motors.

Global growth rates for automotive motors: brushed DC motors (dark blue); brushless DC motors (light blue); stepper motors (green)
Source: IMS Research

Turnbough points out that selling motors for powertrain and chassis applications is more lucrative for brushed DC motor suppliers than selling motors into lower-end applications such as door locks and electric windows.

In 2012, about 60% of motors used in powertrain and chassis applications, and 32% of motors used in other automotive applications, needed more than 30W of output power. The average selling prices of motors above 30W were more than three times higher than those of motors below 30W. Because of this, motor suppliers that targeted powertrain and chassis applications generated much higher revenues than those that supplied motors for lower-end applications.

Although the use of brushed DC motors is growing with the increasing number of electromechanically-driven powertrain and chassis systems, brushless shipments for these applications are expected to grow twice as fast from 2012 to 2017. Shipments of DC brushed are expected to grow by 3.5% and those of brushless motor by 7% over this period, according to IMS.

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