Automotive

Smack torque: Protean Electric launches new in-wheel drive system

Smack torque: Protean Electric...
The system can be retrofitted to existing vehicle platforms or easily adapted to fit newer offerings
The system can be retrofitted to existing vehicle platforms or easily adapted to fit newer offerings
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Electric wheel motors have the ability to respond individually and instantaneously with massive amounts of torque
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Electric wheel motors have the ability to respond individually and instantaneously with massive amounts of torque
A BRABUS influenced Mercedes-Benz E-Class complete with full-electric and hybrid capabilities
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A BRABUS influenced Mercedes-Benz E-Class complete with full-electric and hybrid capabilities
Protean’s new motors regenerative abilities are enhanced to the point where up to 85 percent of kinetic energy can now be recovered
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Protean’s new motors regenerative abilities are enhanced to the point where up to 85 percent of kinetic energy can now be recovered
Brabus Benz receives updated knob and button treatment to accommodate the system
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Brabus Benz receives updated knob and button treatment to accommodate the system
The system can be retrofitted to existing vehicle platforms or easily adapted to fit newer offerings
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The system can be retrofitted to existing vehicle platforms or easily adapted to fit newer offerings
Wheel motor technology provides extensive customization such as power delivery, wheel slip, wheel braking and traction capabilities
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Wheel motor technology provides extensive customization such as power delivery, wheel slip, wheel braking and traction capabilities
The tiny miracles are capable of providing 1,000 Nm (735 lb.ft.) of torque and 75 kW (100 hp) of power to each wheel
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The tiny miracles are capable of providing 1,000 Nm (735 lb.ft.) of torque and 75 kW (100 hp) of power to each wheel
Protean’s new motors provide a 25 percent increase in peak torque compared with the previous generation
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Protean’s new motors provide a 25 percent increase in peak torque compared with the previous generation
Protean motors reside in the space behind the wheel, with each motor weighing 31 kgs (68 lbs)
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Protean motors reside in the space behind the wheel, with each motor weighing 31 kgs (68 lbs)
Ford F150 is one of Protean's demo vehicles outfitted with the new wheel-motor system
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Ford F150 is one of Protean's demo vehicles outfitted with the new wheel-motor system

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.

Wheel motor technology provides extensive customization such as power delivery, wheel slip, wheel braking and traction capabilities
Wheel motor technology provides extensive customization such as power delivery, 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?

Source: Protean Electric

27 comments
BigGoofyGuy
IMO; I think it could go a long way to making electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles more of a viable alternative to gas and/or diesel powered vehicles.
VirtualGathis
Glad to hear this company hasn't fizzled out. I've been watching these motors since PML flightlink first put them in a mini: www.gizmag.com/go/6104 Hopefully they will become available to consumers once mass production hits full swing, not just to OEMs. I would gladly invest in four motors and the master controller, maybe even two sets. With the longevity of well made electric motors it could be integrated into something like the "skateboard" concept. With the powertrain integrated into a base unit and the rest of the vehicle being modular so it can be upgraded and reconfigured as the owners needs change. You buy your first vehicle then instead of buying a new everything ever 5-10 years you just replace the part that is cheaper, based on car experts stating the power train is 66% of the cost of a vehicle.
piperTom
I was hoping for some comment about the (supposed?) problems with unsprung weight. The 31Kg (per wheel) is going to be quite a thud, making for a rough ride and handling problems, or so I have been told. Of course, most people are more interested in motors with a half or a third of that power and even less in torque.
Kaido Tiigisoon
Each wheel weighing 31 kg + rim + tire? What about unsprung mass and it's influence on car's driveability? Every time someone shows a good example of in-wheel motor (there have been in-hub engines as well) I imagine that those people do not have a clue about the suspension dynamics. In-wheel motors are well only for cars that travel in straight line on perfectly smooth surfaces. So unless the weight of the motor is down to say about tenth of it's current mass (impossible I believe) it's a big thumbs DOWN.
Mart Kaasiku
well, you are forgetting that normal gas engined cars have gearboxes and final drives. pretty sure that when taking ratios into consideration you can get cars with more first gear torque than that and unsprung weight is also an issue. add the weight for brake components, rim and tyre and you'd be looking close to 50kg. cornering is compromised too. would really be a massive gyro
Mike Ricci
Angus, I'm sorry to say this but you were so busy trying to write clever prose "According to my math, those torque numbers destroy any gas powered options that currently exist" that your forgot to actually do any real thinking or math. Don't feel too bad though, you're not the first to make this mistake, possibly Protean's web site doesn't help to dispel the myth. The Protean motor makes it's torque *at the wheel* while a conventional V8 has about 10:1 in reduction through the transmission and differential to the wheel-- so a mid-range 400 ft*lb V8 makes 4000 ft*lb of torque at the wheel in 1st gear, pretty much destroying the Protean for off-the line performance.
John Routledge
@Mike Ricci: "so a mid-range 400 ft*lb V8 makes 4000 ft*lb of torque at the wheel in 1st gear" And how much smoke does it generate at the wheels when it does this? Unsprung mass is a problem for 'dumb' systems; which frankly aren't that great even with regular 'light' wheels. Individual wheel monitoring should mitigate grip problems, and smarter suspension should better handle shocks. More complexity is not ideal, but it is probably worth the potential fuel savings, possibly offset by a reduction in drive train complexity, and might actually produce a more comfortable driving experience.
Peter Verwey
Make it fully sealed completely waterproof and dust / dirt / mud proof and you have the basis for an extremely capable 4WD. Forget about batteries and fuel cells for now, spend R&D dollars and effort making better electric motors and run hybrid systems until the batteries catch up. A small battery bank coupled to a standard ICE motor stripped down to do nothing more than act as a generator, no gearbox, no drivetrain - to me this is the short term win-win situation.
Oztechi
Protean Electric has published studies done on the issue of unsprung mass and its effect on the vehicle, one of which is called 'Unsprung Mass with In-Wheel Motors - Myths and Realities' which can be found here: http://www.proteanelectric.com/?page_id=154&cat=23 It is not as if they don't know what they are talking about, like some of the people make out here.
Slowburn
re; Oztechi Studies that support the position of the company that commissioned the study are always suspect especially when it goes against decades of experience. I never made the change from steel to light alloy rims in a car where it made a notable difference but a friend that put steel roll-flat inserts into his truck said, "It makes the truck handle like a pig but my mom and baby sister can now drive it someplace safe if they get a flat." I would probably get along just fine with the weight but I think electric hybrids are just stupid. I'll use a much more cost effective system.