I covered in-wheel electric motor startup Protean back in October 2012. Naturally, it takes a while for a company to get rolling, but Protean recently announced some pretty big news. It has partnered with FAW-VOLKSWAGEN AUTOMOTIVE CO., LTD. “to develop an all new electric propulsion system that will include Protean Electric’s award-winning Protean Drive™ with intent towards a demonstration vehicle program and production.”The partnership has been in the works for a while, and it looks like protean and FAW-VW have made some good progress. “FAW-VW will create an all-new rear-wheel drivetrain for a pure Electric Vehicle (EV) based on the new Bora compact sedan, utilizing two Protean in-wheel motors. This cooperation began several months ago and so all bench testing, engineering calibration and on site application support is expected to be completed within a year. Protean Electric will also assist FAW-VW in the development of safety and vehicle controls that can be applied to additional vehicle programs.”
As commenters have noted in the past, hub motors are not new… even if they are not (yet) in our cars. There are some key benefits to this type of technology, such as much greater fuel economy. In-wheel motors also offers the potential for great energy capture via regenerative braking; they can rather easily be used in retrofits; they are quite simple; and they offer greater and more varied control. These in-wheel electric motors also offer more space within the body of the car for designers to play with and make use of.
One downside includes potential performance drawbacks (due to high unsprung weight), but Protean seems like it has solutions to that… and has had them for a long time. It claims that people bringing up this “potential problem” are completely ignorant of what Protean has done to solve for that problem, details of which have been posted on its site for years. Another potential downside is that the motors are in a less secure place in the vehicle, but that can reportedly be addressed as well through certain design solutions. And one final potential drawback is that putting two electric motors in the car instead of one is likely to be more costly… but that could be made up for by the other benefits.
Back in 2012, I quoted Protean as writing: “Protean Drive™ also has superior regenerative braking capabilities, which allow up to 85 percent of the available kinetic energy to be recovered during braking. This can increase driving range up to 30 percent and contribute to the reduction of battery size and cost.”
Well, it seems that FAW-VW has faith in the technology and is satisfied with the improvements Protean brings to the table. (By the way, if you’re curious to learn more about FAW-VW, here’s the snapshot: “founded in 1991 and is a Chinese joint venture between FAW Group Corporation, a Chinese state-owned automotive manufacturing company and Volkswagen Group. The headquarters of FAW-VW is located in the south-western section of Changchun, Jilin Province.”
Back when I covered Protean in 2012, the company had written, “Prototype manufacturing will begin in early 2013 with volume production in 2014, out of Protean’s new manufacturing facility in Liyang, China.” It looks like that is still the schedule.
To learn more, watch the video and look at the specs below, or just head on over to the Protean website.
Here are more details on what Protean is offering, via the recent press release:
The motors reside in the space behind the wheel, producing torque and power exactly where and when drivers need it. Protean’s new production motor provides the highest torque and power density of any leading electric propulsion system. Each in-wheel motor comes with its own power and control electronics packaged inside the motor, which communicates with the vehicle by utilizing a common vehicle control system.
Features of Protean’s in-wheel motors include:
- 75 kW (100 hp) peak power
- Highest torque density of any of today’s leading electric drive systems
- Mass of only 34 kg (75 lbs.) per motor
- Power and control electronics packaged inside the motor
- Superior regenerative braking capabilities, which allow up to 85 percent of the available kinetic energy to be recovered during braking
- Fits within a conventional 18” road wheel
In addition, Protean has developed multiple vehicles with various global OEMs for demonstration in the US, Europe and China.
Protean has been awarded 33 patents for its unique technology and design, with 101 additional international patent applications pending. Protean has won the prestigious 2012 Technology Pioneers Award from the World Economic Forum and received recognition from Car and Driver magazine as one of the ten most promising technologies for 2013.