Protean To Begin In-Wheel Electric Motor Production In 2014


protean-1The holy grail of electric vehicle technology is in-wheel electric motors, which put power directly to the street and eliminate a host of other parts. In-wheel electric motor maker Portean claims that by next year, production of their revolutionary product will begin.

Weighing just 68 pounds, but capable of delivering 100 horsepower and 735 ft-lbs of torque per wheel, the Protean in-wheel electric motor would eliminate things like driveshafts, differentials, and transmissions. That reduces the cost and complexity of electric drivetrain setups, and drops a whole lot of weight as well. Mercedes tuner Brabus used two Protean motors in their beastly diesel-electric hybrid to great effect.

That’s only a few of the advantages of in-wheel motors though. Each motor can be controlled independently, allowing for more control in dicey situations. Protean also claims their electric motors can reclaim up to 85% of the kinetic energy via regenerative braking. The Protean system can also be retrofitted to existing vehicles fairly easily.

Sounds amazing, right? With production scheduled for next year though, I am left wondering…what automakers are signed up for this awesome tech? Or will Protean sell these as stand-alone units directly to customers? So many possibilities…what will come of it all?

Source: Motor Authority


About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • milou

    I’m in for it. Depends on price of course but, it is the best idea so far for used vehicle.

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  • P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

    Imagine this system, and newer nano
    germanium, and or nano carbon, nano graphene technologies for super
    capacitors to store much higher voltages than ever before, thus
    reducing weight, even of these units, and huge energy storage
    capabilities? For bikes? For University of Alberta, renewable, carbon
    sequestering hemp utility bodies – like the lotus Hemp car? imagine
    the diameter changed for best distance or best quarter mile? Imagine
    the spectacularly low moving part count for this power train! piston
    engines soon enough gone the way of typewriter ribbons, and white

  • Green Chile

    I’d love to add one to my VW diesel. It averages 40mpg, but I’m not averse to improving on that.

    Of course, this should be ho-hum, old news. The technology was first devised by Ferdinand Porsche for horseless carriages, 100 years ago. Too bad it had to be “reinvented”.

  • Inverters are at the wheel as well so there are no 3-phase AC power lines in the vehicle, just DC (except for the wall charger lines)? Very cool. I wonder how this differs from the rear axle of the AWD Prius and the front axle motors of the future Acura NSX and other cars that’ll be driveshaft-less AWD.

    2 concerns;
    (1) Cooling of the electronics and the motor (just air cooled?)
    (2) Added unsprung weight?

    • Bob_Wallace

      “A stock 2007 Ford Focus was compared with an identical vehicle modified with 66 lb (30 kg) of ballast fitted to each wheel. The weight was distributed between rotating and nonrotating unsprung masses as to broadly replicate Protean Electric’s PD18 (18-in diameter) wheel-hub-motor unit. The project plan included three phases of analysis and testing.

      Phase 1 focused on modeling of different modifications, including suspension spring, bushing, and damper rates, and different tires and pressures, and their effects on the IWM-equipped vehicle. It was determined that simply fitting a standard Focus ST suspension (an upgrade on the stock base car) would be a good practical solution.

      In phase 2, the stock vehicle was modified with the Focus ST suspension. This setup included revisions to the front and rear spring rates, dampers, and the rear antiroll bar. In phase 3, the Focus with the modified ST suspension was retested. The process included a subjective vehicle assessment, objective ride and handling tests, on-road shake measurements, and two-post shaker rig measurements.

      The studies concluded, and the presenters argue, that while the vehicle carrying the greater unsprung mass at each wheel did display perceptible differences compared with the stock vehicle, those differences were minor and can be mitigated using “normal engineering processes within a product development cycle.”

      By fitting the upgraded ST-level suspension to the car replicating one equipped with Protean PD18 in-wheel motors, the vehicle’s handling and on-center tracking were improved back to reference. Overall, the effort conducted by Protean Electric, Lotus Engineering, and Dunamos may help convince skeptics that the addition of 30 kg of unsprung mass per corner will not adversely impact overall vehicle dynamics and can be addressed fairly easily with cost-effective countermeasures.”

      • MaxHedrm

        That’s always my concern, glad to see at least some testing has been done. But having noticed what a reduction of 10 pounds or so per corner can do to improve the way a car behaves, I’m not entirely sure I believe them. :^/ It’s not like they don’t have a vested interest. I also wonder if it would be rougher on tires.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Have you seen what a 10 pound reduction does with an active suspension rather than the standard spring/shock suspension?

          As for rougher on tires, I would expect a computer controlled active suspension to be easier on tires. For example, when you drove into a deep hole at speed the tire would track its way to the bottom and back out rather than bouncing a few times. Each bounce with a driven wheel involves some rubber-wasting spinning.

          • MaxHedrm

            So, in addition to adding several thousand dollars to the cost of a car for the hybrid system and batteries, you suggest adding another few thousand for a computer controlled, electrically actuated suspension? That sounds like a great way to make a low cost hybrid for the masses or retrofit an existing car. *shakes head*

          • Bob_Wallace

            And I shake my head at your cost exaggeration.

          • MaxHedrm

            From another article on this site about a similar retrofit kit (would likely be cheaper to add upfront):
            “Yes, they basically doubled their fuel economy with a bolt-on hybrid
            kit, and what’s more, the estimated cost to sell this kit would be
            around $3,000.”

            And the mag-ride type suspensions are usually a $1500-2000 option. Yeah, they don’t cost that, but the manufacturers do charge that.

            So, probably a bit under $5k added on to a car. Yeah, it might pay for itself during the life of the components (though hub mounted motors would also be subject to more impact & vibration, shortening their life), but people tend not to buy things that way.

          • wattleberry

            What I had in mind was some short-travel shock absorption between the wheel mounting and the rotor which could perhaps at least minimise the unsprung mass effect and also spare the components from high-frequency vibrations.

          • MaxHedrm

            Not a bad idea, I would be a bit concerned about deflection. At least these would most likely be on the rear wheels, so deflection might not be as big of a potential issue.

      • Much lower center of gravity? Gyroscopic stability advantage? Larger diameters possible? Better mileage per charge this way? Higher super-cap voltage supplies for higher power densities? mid slung hemp or carbon fibre bodies and even lower center of gravity? Lateral crash protection?

  • Lee

    I can just imagine replacing the wheel spacers on my lifted Cherokee with these.

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  • huge torque transferred to higher mileage per charge with larger wheel diameters?

  • Ty

    Add 4 of these to an EREV and you have your appocolypse vehicle. Especially if your fuel burning engine is an external combustion one.

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  • danwat1234

    It’s 2015, can I buy one for my 1999 Civic yet?