Protean Electric raises $70M to accelerate adoption of in-wheel drive systems for electrified vehicles in China
Protean Electric, developer and manufacturer of in-wheel electric drive systems, has raised $70 million in new funding from GO Scale Capital, Zhejiang VIE Science & Technology Co. Ltd., and Tianjin THSG Corporation. Existing investors Oak Investment Partners and GSR Ventures co-invested in Protean’s equity financing round.
The investment follows Protean’s announcement in May that it is setting up a manufacturing site in Tianjin, China to commercialize its model PD18 in-wheel motor in order to meet customer demand. The new funding will be used to ramp up production in China of Protean’s PD18 product line, and for new product development and formation of a manufacturing joint venture with VIE.
Using a scalable and patented sub-motor architecture and designed to fit inside an 18" wheel rim, Protean’s current PD18 product provides the power and torque required to propel hybrid and electric vehicles from C-segment all the way to light commercial categories.
The Protean system is a fully-integrated, direct-drive solution that combines in-wheel motors with an integrated inverter, control electronics and software. Each motor packages in the unused space behind a conventional 18- to 24-inch wheel and can use the original equipment wheel bearing.
The direct-drive configuration reduces part count, complexity and cost, so there is no need to integrate traditional drivetrain components such as external gearing, transmissions, driveshafts, axles and differentials.
Each in-wheel motor can be controlled entirely independently, providing far greater control, performance and vehicle dynamics than any other drive system. In addition, traction control, launch control and torque vectoring are all easily implemented through the use of in-wheel motors.
The Protean motors deliver peak output power @ 400 Vdc of 75 kW and continuous output power @ 400 Vdc of 54 kW. Peak output torque is 1000 N·m and continuous output torque is 650 N·m.
The joint venture will engage in production and marketing of other in-wheel motor products.
Suitable for both passenger and commercial vehicles, Protean motors can boost an electrified vehicle’s energy efficiency by up to 15% compared to a centralized motor in an electric powertrain.
China aims to have five million new energy vehicles on the road by 2020, and has focused on electrification of buses and logistics vehicles to achieve that goal. Too, automakers in China must meet increasingly strict fuel consumption standards, reaching 5 liters per 100 kilometers (47 mpg US) by 2020.
There’s tremendous interest around the world in adopting Protean’s in-wheel electric drive systems, which enable breakthrough cost and performance advantages, including integrated power electronics, unparalleled regenerative braking efficiency, and high power and torque applied directly to the wheel.
China, in particular, presents a compelling near-term opportunity with the central and local governments’ continued support of electric vehicles as a means to address the serious pollution problem. In mature markets such as North America and Europe, I believe Protean’s electric drive system will be embraced as one solution to help these countries achieve fuel economy and meet challenging emissions targets.—Bandel Carano, managing partner at Oak Investment Partners
Protean maintains operations in the United Kingdom, Shanghai, China and the United States, and has a manufacturing plant in Tianjin, China.