The race to develop in-wheel motors

Some of Japan's top electronics firms are racing to develop the next-generation of motors for electric vehicles.

They're working on smaller, so-called in-wheel motors that attach directly to each drive wheel. The makers say this makes a vehicle more responsive and more efficient. It's not a new idea, but until now it's been too expensive for mass production.

Electronics giant Hitachi is hoping to change that with a system that combines the motor, brake and inverter into a single unit that goes inside a wheel.

Hitachi says having the motor inside the wheel can extend a vehicle's range by up to 20 percent.
Electronic parts maker Nidec is working on small, lightweight in-wheel motors it says can generate the same output as a 1.8-liter gasoline-powered engine.