An all-new hybrid retrofit market will emerge and grow to a half million vehicles total by 2020, according to Protean Electric, which has developed an in-wheel motor electric drive system for light-duty vehicles. (Earlier post.)
Ken Stewart, Protean’s vice president of sales and marketing, will discuss the hybrid market this week at the Hybrid, Electric and High Efficiency Truck Users Forum (HTUF). The forum is sponsored by CALSTART in partnership with the U.S. Army National Automotive Center (NAC).
The vast majority of this new hybrid retrofit market will come from converting light duty government and commercial fleets. The total addressable vehicle market procured in the United States alone is estimated to be over 1.5 million vehicles, according to information from General Service Administration reports and Automotive Fleet Magazine.
Protean’s system can be integrated into a broad range of vehicles and can increase fuel economy by more than 30% depending on the size of the battery and the driving cycle. Fleet owners can get the benefits of hybrid technology without having to buy new vehicles, engines or transmissions, or having to modify their engines to run on different fuels than what they are using today. Since these vehicles often have a lifecycle of two to six years beyond the lifecycle of a typical retail vehicle, system costs can be amortized over several years after the vehicle is already in service.
Protean's in-wheel solution. Each Protean in-wheel motor produces up to 110 hp (81 kW), occupies the unused space behind an 18-inch road wheel, and can be fitted to conventional rear axles. And because each motor has its own self-contained inverter controller, the system requires less space on board the vehicle for motor power electronics. Protean Drive systems have regenerative braking, and a redundant disk brake design is being developed to meet all necessary safety requirements.
Protean says that it, along with battery companies and integrators, will help enable more wide-spread adoption of hybrid technology to convert fleet customers’ vehicles. The system offers advantages to front-, rear- or four-wheel drive vehicles that run on gas, diesel or gaseous fuels such as CNG. The motors also have the highest torque and power density compared to any of today's leading electric propulsion systems.
Protean’s in-wheel motors are uniquely designed for a broad range of vehicle applications. The motors can be added to vehicles more simply, creating a hybrid or plug-in hybrid configuration from an existing conventional truck. It’s the closest thing to a bolt-on hybrid system, and it will have broad appeal for fleets as the smart way to save fuel and lower emissions without having to give up performance or continually purchase all-new vehicles.—Ken Stewart