Protean’s Unique 100HP In-Wheel Electric Motor

If you bought into cult stock Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) exactly one year ago, you’d be up on your investment over +540% today. Equally as unique as these returns are some of the facts about the Tesla Model S. It contains a brick of 6,831 lithium-ion batteries that weigh about 1,000 pounds. It captures energy from braking and transfers it back to the batteries. It can be fully charged in 3.5 hours with a range of 250 miles. It doesn’t use a key, but instead recognizes you based on a fob you carry. The +13,000 RPM electric motor weighs just 70 pounds and generates 416 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque that moves the car from zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds.  They say Tesla salespeople who take potential buyers out for a ride ask them to turn on the radio before they put the pedal down because it’s funny to watch the person try to reach the radio and fail because the acceleration is so powerful. The Model S is no doubt an impressive achievement by Tesla.  Another company looking to fundamentally change the way electric cars are designed is Protean Electric.

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Founded in 1963, privately held Protean Electric has 90 employees today and a long past in the development of electric motors. It was only in 2005 that Protean began developing their in-wheel electric motor. In July of 2012, Protean closed on a funding round of $84 million from GSR Ventures, New Times Group, and Oak Investment Partners. Protean has been awarded 33 patents for their unique technology as well as 101 additional international patent applications pending.

Update 08/16/2018: May of this year, Protean Electric secured an additional $40 million from a Series E funding round led by Waifu High-Technology group to further support current business activities and establish a global licensing model for all key markets. This investment also includes a joint venture in China to manufacture ProteanDrive PD18, along with the establishment of a technology center that will be focusing on customer application engineering and manufacturing process engineering. This brings Protean’s total funding to $194 million so far.

The Protean Drive

Listed by Car and Driver magazine as one of the ten most promising technologies for 2013, the Protean Drive is a 75-pound electric motor that generates 100 horsepower and 735 lb-ft of peak torque. 85 percent of the available kinetic energy in the Protean Drive can be recovered during braking. The motor does not require external gearing, drive shafts, or differentials. The motor package, which contains an inverter, control electronics, and software, fits easily in the unused space behind a conventional 18 to 24-inch wheel as seen below:

Proten Drive's Motor Package
The way that Tesla designed their Model S is with a rear-mounted electric motor that powers the two rear wheels. The Tesla configuration much represents the way the two front wheels and the engine interact in a front-wheel-drive car. The new AWD Tesla Model X will have two electric motors for both the front and rear axles.

Protean Electric proposes instead to have 2 or 4 separate in-wheel electric motors that could be configured as FWD, RWD, or AWD. Since each of these high-torque motors can be controlled independently, one can only imagine what sort of traction control could be achieved from an AWD configuration. Perhaps the greatest potential of the Power Drive is that it can be integrated easily to make a hybrid out of existing cars or trucks.

Protean has developed multiple demonstration vehicles, including a Ford F150, a Volvo C30, and BRABUS full electric and hybrid vehicles based on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. In December 2013, Protean announced a partnership with FAW-Volkswagen to develop an all-new electric propulsion system that will include the Protean Drive. Volume production of Protean Drive motors is expected to begin in 2014 out of Protean’s new manufacturing facility in Liyang China.

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