Protean's Electric Dreams

Posted by Edwin Loh
22 Apr 2013
Protean's Electric Dreams

Automotive components manufacturer Protean Electric would like you to have a 350 bhp all-wheel-drive hybrid Suzuki Swift Sport today. Wait, what did you just say?

While the motoring press ogles at new show cars at the Shanghai Motor show this weekend, motoring engineers are looking to Detroit at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress. And all eyes are on in-wheel electric drive maker Protean Electric.

What Protean makes is a production ready in-wheel elective drive system that can fit on any standard 18 to 24 inch diameter wheel hub to turn the vehicle into a hybrid or a full electric vehicle. The factory rates the output per in-wheel motor at 110hp and 800 Nm.

But the nifty trick here is that Protean claims that with its open development software platform, cars with the proper electronic controls can achieve torque vectoring with its electric motors capable of negative torque.

Not only does that mean advanced traction control is made more affordable but also, in theory, a car with four motors can pivot around its vertical axis.

The company also goes on to mention that the motors are capable of recouping 85 percent of kinetic energy during braking thus increasing fuel consumption and range by 30 per cent.

“Is there a catch somewhere?” I hear you ask.

Well, there is one – It weighs 31kg. Each motor weighs that much.

Despite the motoring community’s near reverential regard for reducing unsprung weight, Lotus Engineering – the people responsible for Lotus sports cars – would beg to differ.

Here is what Martyn Anderson, the engineer in charged of the study, said:

“While perceptible differences emerge with increased unsprung mass, on the whole they are small and unlikely to be apparent to an average driver. The nature and magnitude of the changes appears to be nothing that cannot be overcome by the application of normal engineering processes within a product development cycle. Conversely, the promise of individual wheel motor control shows good potential for substantial improvements in vehicle behaviour.”

Protean is banking of the illustrious name of Lotus and their history of making excellent handling cars to sell their new in-wheel electric motor. It is still too early to say if it will work considering the average consumer is not going make up a significant portion of their future sales.

Their goal is to become a parts supplier to car manufacturers keen to develop on a budget a new and modular electric/hybrid car or perhaps retrofitting an existing model. And with automakers increasingly looking outside of their organisations for ways to reduce cost, Protean is looking well placed to provide just that solution.

A 350 bhp all-wheel-drive Suzuki Swift Sport Hybrid could indeed be a dream close to coming true.


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