When it comes to hybrid drive-train innovations, the electric wheel motor has perhaps been under-appreciated. Protean Electric's new and improved electric wheel motor system might change that, thanks to the copious amounts of torque it affords.

Unveiled at the 2013 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, Protean’s new production in-wheel motor is a designed to be paired with a gas engine as part of a hybrid system, as well as used in all-electric vehicles. Unlike traditional gas or hybrid drive-trains where power is transmitted via drive shafts that rely on various transmission and differential configurations, electric wheel motors have the ability to respond individually and instantaneously. Motors can produce power exactly when and where needed, as determined by an assortment of wheel sensors, performance settings, throttle inputs, transmission setup and road conditions.

Mercedes' new all-electric SLS is the latest example of how this technology can provide an array of driver modes, with variable inputs for power, wheel slip, wheel braking and traction capabilities.

Protean’s new motors provide a 25-percent increase in peak torque compared with the company’s previous generation, as seen in the EDAG concept vehicle. These tiny miracles of electricity are now capable of providing 1,000 Nm (735 lb.ft) of torque and 75 kW (100 hp) of power to each wheel. According to my math, those torque numbers destroy any gas powered options that currently exist. The closest you’ll get to these figures is the 500 lb.ft of torque per wheel that the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover is currently laying down on the surface of Mars.

Residing in the space behind the wheel, each motor weighs in at only 31 kg (68 lb). The power gained by the addition of 124 kg (i.e. 4,000 lb.ft of torque overall) relative to the power-weight-ratio of a normal gas engine is indeed an argument of significant proportions. Not only are heaps and gobs of torque now available, but Protean also promises an increase in fuel economy of 30 percent, all dependent on battery size, driver input and driving conditions that determine an EV’s mileage. On the braking front, Protean’s new motors regenerative abilities are enhanced to the point where up to 85 percent of kinetic energy can now be recovered.

According to Bob Purcell, Chairman and CEO of Protean Electric, “Protean Electric is ready to enable the global automobile industry as it moves to high volume, low cost hybrid and electric drive powertrains.” Purcell goes on to mention how the system can be retrofitted to existing vehicle platforms or easily adapted to fit newer offerings.

Protean has been awarded 27 patents for its technology and design. The company's street cred also includes the 2012 Technology Pioneers Award from the World Economic Forum and a nod from Car and Driver magazine as one of the ten most promising technologies for 2013.

Protean’s current list of demonstration vehicles includes; a Vauxhall Vivaro cargo van, Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group (GAC) Trumpchi, a Ford F150, and a BRABUS influenced Mercedes-Benz E-Class with hybrid capabilities.

Why worry about cold air intake, tweaked exhaust system and turbo-charger modifications for a few extra horsepower, when one can strategically locate four discreet e-powered motivators on each corner and secure a few thousand additional pound feet of torque?

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