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In-wheel electric drive company Protean receives $84M in funding; to build production plant in China

Protean Electric, developer of in-wheel electric drive systems (earlier post), received $84 million in new funding from GSR Ventures, New Times Group, Oak Investment Partners and the city of Liyang, Jiangsu Province, China. This capital will be used to bring Protean’s electric drive technology to production by establishing manufacturing facilities in Liyang.

The funding is led by GSR Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Beijing and Silicon Valley. They will be joined by the New Times Group, a Liyang-based industrial group. Oak Investment Partners, Protean’s first venture investor, is also participating in this round of funding. The city of Liyang is partnering to provide prototype manufacturing support, with favorable industrial policy.

GSR is honored to lead this round of investment in a disruptive technology that we believe has great promise for the Chinese automotive market and potentially building a global EV platform.

—Sonny Wu, GSR Ventures managing director

This marks Protean Electric’s entry into China, the world's largest automobile market. In 2011, China automobile sales exceeded 18.5 million units. Passenger car sales climbed to about 14.5 million units; commercial vehicle sales exceeded 4 million units. Total vehicle registrations in China today total over 100 million automobiles.

The Chinese government just published a plan through 2020 to accelerate the production and adoption of new energy vehicles, including electric drive vehicles. (Earlier post.)

With this round of investment in place, Protean Electric is now positioned to move aggressively to production and into the market. All of our investors believe in our technology and share in our vision to make Protean Electric the world leader for in-wheel electric drive. We will have the capability to directly supply our motors at lower volume levels, while providing licenses to our higher volume customers and partners.

We have a very unique value proposition: We can create hybrid and electric drive vehicle options, on the vehicles that people like to drive. We can provide more power, better fuel economy, easier integration, and lower cost. The Protean Electric drive system is probably as close as the industry will ever get to a bolt-on solution.

—Bob Purcell, chairman and CEO of Protean Holdings Corp.

Features of Protean’s in-wheel motors include:

  • Fuel economy improvements up to 30% depending on battery size;
  • Highest torque density of any of today’s leading electric propulsion systems;
  • 81 kW (110 hp) and 800 N·m (590 lb-ft) from each motor;
  • 31 kg (68 lbs) per motor;
  • Fits within the space of a conventional 18- to 24-inch road wheel; and
  • Regenerative braking capabilities allowing up to 85% of the available kinetic energy to be recovered during braking.

Protean Electric’s plans in China call for beginning prototype motor production early next year and volume production in 2014.

Protean has been awarded 21 patents for its technology and design, and more than 70 additional patent applications have been filed internationally and with specific countries in North America, Europe and Asia. Protean also has won the 2012 Technology Pioneers Award from the World Economic Forum as being one of most promising start-up technology companies in the world.

In addition, Protean has developed multiple demonstration vehicles, including a Ford F150 pick-up truck, Volvo C30, Vauxhall Vivaro cargo van, Guangzhou Automobile Company Trumpchi, and BRABUS full electric and hybrid vehicles, based on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and were featured at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.



I wonder why not any in-wheel light duty vehicle on sale. In-wheel concept has been investigated by GM, Mitsubishi, Volvo and others but nobody took risk throwing into the market.


".. and 800 N·m (590 lb-ft) from each motor.."

'Floor it' for adding black marks and rubber tire fires to parking lots.


Apparently GM, Mitsubishi, Volvo and others investigated the in-wheel concept and found it wanting.

590 lb-ft from each motor is only about 600 lb of thrust at the parking lot surface.

A 2.5 liter engine in low gear puts about 900 lb at each (of 2) drive wheel surface.


Does the suspention cope well with a weighty wheel like that, there is more space for the rest of the car.


This is great news for future affordable made in China in-wheel e-motors. This first generation may be on the heavy side but future generations will certainly be much lighter and as powerful as required. Drivers who want to burn more rubber will be able to install more powerful wheels.

Future electrified vehicles equipped with AWD self-balancing in-wheel e-motors will out performed most ICE counterparts. Mechanical brakes will last for 200,000+ miles. Changing a worn or damaged motor wheel will take about 2 minutes and will be as easy as changing today's tires.

One day, most vehicles will have fully regulated, self-balancing, light weight in-wheel e-motors in ALL Wheels.


Amen Brother! I have been saying it for more than ten years now.


These will probably take over EV motors like the Le Rhone Rotary Engine took over radial aircraft engines.


TT may be unpleasantly surprised if he lives another 10 years or so.

Bob Wallace

Can someone address the issue of sprung weight with these in-hub motors?

I understand the problem of a heavy wheel with steel spring suspensions.

But if the suspension is "electrical", as with Michelin's in-hub system, it would seem that the system would keep a almost constant force between body and wheel as the wheel goes up and down. Using power and harvesting power as it moves.

(I'd sure like an all wheel in-hub with the ability to rise up higher off the ground when the going gets rough. Like the last 3.5 miles to my house.)


It doesn't matter much.  I suspect that a small two-speed gearset could be integrated into the wheel, reducing the motor weight and increasing the static torque.  The higher motor RPMs at low speed would probably improve efficiency as well.

If you combine e.g. a 2.5:1 gear reduction with a 33% reduction in motor size and torque (and weight), the static thrust goes up about 1.66 times in low.  Put them on all 4 wheels, add torque vectoring and traction control, and the ICEV with conventional transmission isn't going to have much in the way of advantages.


Rather than transmissions and motors within the wheels where G forces are high, just put the low cost motors and transmissions in the middle, with a 40% reduction in motor size, add a couple of U-joints and you reduce unsprung weight (active suspension costs money and USES power).

Leaves room for those red hot brake disks in the wheels.
Shocks are lighter.
Suspension parts are lighter.

And who wants to consume motors like they consume tires and burn rubber.


It's not that difficult to make a motor rugged enough to take the beating which passes through a pneumatic tire.


Current larger wheels 17 to 22 inch dia. should have no problem to fit thin wide diameter rugged light weight e-motors and smaller/lighter mechanical disc brakes.

Having AWD capabilities would be a safety asset in many countries. The driver could easily revert to 2WD whenever one of the in-wheel e-motor fails and/or have it repaired/changed. The savings in mechanical brake repairs would be substantial.

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