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The paper describes a relatively new topology of 3-phase permanent magnet (PM) brushless machine, which offers a number of significant advantages over conventional PM brushless machines for automotive applications, such as electrical torque boosting at low engine speeds for vehicles equipped with downsized internal combustion engine (ICEs). The relative merits of feasible slot/pole number combinations for the proposed 3-phase modular PM brushless ac machine are discussed, and an analytical method for establishing the open-circuit and armature reaction magnetic field distributions when such a machine is equipped with a surface-mounted magnet rotor is presented. The results allow the prediction of the torque, the phase emf, and the self- and mutual winding inductances in closed forms, and provide a basis for comparative studies, design optimization and machine dynamic modeling. However, a more robust machine, in terms of improved containment of the magnets, results when the magnets are buried inside the rotor, which, since it introduces a reluctance torque, also serves to reduce the back-emf, the iron loss and the inverter voltage rating. The performance of a modular PM brushless machine equipped with an interior magnet rotor is demonstrated by measurements on a 22-pole/24-slot prototype torque boosting machine.