Autofield Blog

Malibu, Wheel Motors & More


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6. May 2013

Last week Chevrolet announced that the Malibu LTZ has a new option. It’s a four-door passive entry system. There are small buttons on each of the door handles. Assuming that there is a key fob within about three feet of the vehicle—with the key fob communicating with the car’s closed-loop communication system—then by pushing a button on a door handle the previously locked door is opened.

 2013 Chevrolet Malibu

Explained Ron Asmar, lead engineer for vehicle access, “We investigated fully passive systems where the key fob would automatically unlock the door when a person was within a certain distance, and deiced against it. We wanted to make sure that the system prevented the car from unlocking just because the person and fob were close to it, such as when walking through the garage to take the garbage out.”

This is a handy feature. One that is available on various other cars, and it is a good thing that Chevy is putting it on the Malibu.

That’s because last week General Motors announced its sales for the month of April. While the corporation’s total sales were up 11.4% compared to April 2012, Malibu was down 0.8% for the month and calendar year-to-date, off 11.9% compared with last year. In April 21,734 Malibus were sold. Ford reported sales of its Fusion were up 23.7% compared with April 2012, to 26,722 units.

Camry sales were off 13.9%, yet 31,710 of those Malibu competitors were sold. The Honda Accord was down 5.2% compared with April 2012, yet 33,538 of those cars rolled off dealer lots.

Clearly, Chevy needs to do something with the Malibu. Which was one of the topics on last Thursday’s “Autoline After Hours.” I asked host John McElroy what he would do to fix the Malibu, and he suggested that they do what they once did back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, which was to make significant modifications to one area of the vehicle. For the Malibu, he thinks that redoing the rear end of the car in a big way might be the way to go.

Peter DeLorenzo of Autoextremist.com is less restrained in his approach: He thinks the entire car ought to be redesigned. Period.

That and other car-related topics are discussed.

In addition to which, Bob Purcell, CEO of Protean Electric, talks about why the wheel motors that his company has developed is what he believes is the answer to the exploding car parc in China. I first met Purcell back in the early ‘90s when he was heading up the technology activities at GM dedicated to finding the best ways and means to put fuel-efficient vehicles on the road—even if that “fuel” was electricity, as in the EV1.

Protean Motor-Cutaway

Protean’s electric drive motor is bolted to the inside of a wheel that’s at least 18 inches. The motor weighs 31 kg (68 lb.), and produces 75 kW (100 hp) and 1,000 Nm (735 lb-ft) of torque.

Purcell explains that the architecture of this approach is such that existing platforms can be readily transformed into hybrids without massive tear-ups of what’s already in place.

How the motor works and why China (after all, the former head of the GM Advanced Technology Vehicles Group knows more than a few people in Detroit) are among the things that Purcell delves into with McElroy, DeLorenzo, and me.

 

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