Cars are classified as motor vehicles for a reason: they work through the help of various types of motors. Like a human body needs its bones and muscles to function smoothly, so does a car needs its motors. Let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of a car and how different kinds of motors help it function.
Three Categories of Motors
Depending on the make and model of the car, there could be anywhere between a dozen to about 50 electric motors in its entire system. These motors can be classified into three different categories: performance-related motors, comfort-related motors, and volume motors.
Performance-related motors are those needed for all driving-related operations. Comfort-related motors, as the name implies, are non-essential to driving but are instead used to make the interior more comfortable. Finally, volume motors are low-power motors used in multiple practical applications. Performance-related motors are have power ratings from 15 kW to as high as 300 kW, sometimes even up to the thousands when it comes to sports and supercars, while the latter two motor categories are usually have power ratings of 5 to 10 W.
If a car is powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE), then it needs fuel to run. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need motors. At the very least, it needs a starter motor. Other performance-related motors in automobiles include engine-cooling motors, cruise control and power-steering motors, fuel pump motors, throttle control motors, and those used in anti-locking brake systems.
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In electric or hybrid cars, the ICE is usually replaced by either brush or brushless DC motors or AC induction motors. With the help of these technologies, today’s electric cars are up to 80 percent more efficient, and therefore less expensive to drive, cleaner, and easier to maintain.
The younger generation may never know what it means to “roll the windows down” because of micro brushless motors that make the lowering and lifting of windows possible with just the push of a button. Apart from the windows, comfort-related motors in cars include HVAC blower motors, front and back windshield wiper motors, and seat adjuster motors. One seat, in fact, may have up to five individual motors depending on the ways that you can adjust it, say the tilt of the backrest (and even the headrest), the height of the seat, the distance of the seat from the steering wheel, among others.
If your car has an automatic sunroof, you can expect that it’s also controlled by a miniature motor. And if you have an older-model vehicle that still has a CD player, then that’s also another tick in the count of motors present in your car. Limousines and other higher-end vehicles may also have partitions between the driver and passengers that can be raised and lowered with the help of mini-motors as well.
These may be considered as comfort-related motors as well, although volume motors serve more practical purposes. These include door lock motors, mirror motors, washer motors, automatic trunk and hood controllers, and air-conditioning actuator motors. If your car’s instrument panel doesn’t have an LCD or LED display for the speedometer, odometer, and fuel gauge, then these also work with the help of motors.
It’s safe to say that most cars nowadays have at least a dozen motors used for basic operations and a dozen more for comfort. It becomes more difficult to designate a number as the safety, entertainment, navigation, and driver-assistance features also increase. In some luxury and electric vehicles, the number becomes even bigger; some Tesla owners have counted at least 50 to 60 motors in their cars. And as technology continues to evolve and more people demand more convenient and safer options, we can expect to see more motors in automobiles, whether they be ICE-propelled or electric.