Skip to main content

Protean Secures Funding Moving Its Electric In Hub Wheel Forward

The idea of placing the electric motor inside a wheel has pros and cons and so far only Protean and Michelin have developed working models. Protean has now secured an additional $80 Million.

The Protean Electric company is a global player in the development and commercialization of in-wheel electric drive systems. The company has secured $84 million in new funding from a few ventures capitals and cities. GSR Ventures, New Times Group, Oak Investment Partners and the city of Liyang, Jiangsu Province, China have given the company a vote of confidence and the money will go for production of its in-hub electric wheel at the manufacturing facilities in Liyang.

Technically Speaking. The fuel economy improvements, according to Protean are substantial depending on which type of vehicle you use, up to 30%, which also depends on battery size. It is, as of today the highest torque density than any of today's leading electric propulsion systems with 81 kW, 110 hp and 800 Nm, 590 lb.-ft. of torque in each motor. The weight of 68 lb, 31 kg per motor and fits within the space of a conventional 18- to 24-inch road wheel. Its regenerative braking capabilities allow up to 85% of the available kinetic energy to be recovered during braking and the company plans to begin its prototype motor production early next year in China with an anticipated full volume in 2014.

Protean’s Wheel. In my interview with Ken Stewart, Ken explained how Protean’s electric in-wheel system differs slightly from Michelin’s Active Wheel in that it takes an electric motor and turns it around into a wheel. But Protean’s system goes even further by offering redundancy by segmenting parts of the in-hub motor in case of highly improbable failures. The system was demonstrated on Mercedes BRABUS full electric and hybrid vehicles, and featured at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, as well as demonstration vehicles, a Ford F150 pick-up truck, Volvo C30, Vauxhall Vivaro cargo van, and a Guangzhou Automobile Company Trumpchi.

Bob Purcell, chairman and CEO of Protean Holdings Corp. was quoted as saying: "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," Purcell said. "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."

It’s good to see ingenious solutions for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars and in-wheel electric motors will play an important role. With Proteans’ new round of funding, the company is now moving closer to manufacturing its in-wheel electric motor.

Updated on May 11, 2018.


Renga Iyengar (not verified)    December 11, 2012 - 10:58PM

Thanks for the Article. I am one of those 'dreamers' who hate diesel & petrol smoke , noise and it's clumsy system of power generation by way of explosion and a reciprocating motion. I would always look for the day in which these things vanish from the roads of the world.

Also congrats to Protean Team. I think they have a good motor. Atleast from the pics it seems that it is a viable 'electric wheel' for all. I do hope with the protean wheel one can do a retrofit with a local mechanic ( of course a good one and not just a engine repairer ) and make their vehicle a DYI Hybrid one.

I am from India and we are probably the only people in the world ( may be next to China ) who use a Three Wheeler for transport. This is called an "Auto Rickshaw" or just a Rickshaw. The protean wheel can be a great one for these Rickshaws - one has to replace only the front wheel and put the battery and controller under the seat of the driver !

I am trying to do one here - just to make these little rickshaws defeat the high cost of petrol / diesel..

I do look forward to seeing the protean wheel come to India soon..all by themselves !

Protean team , pl come to India. You will not be disappointed !

With Best wishes

Renga Iyengar

Nicolas Zart    December 12, 2012 - 1:28PM

In reply to by Renga Iyengar (not verified)

Hi Iyengar, thank you for your comment. My wife and I love India and we are familiar with the Rickshaws. I think a better system for the Rickshaws would be the bicycle in-wheel electric motors. They offer a more favorable weight to torque ratio. The Protean in-wheel electric motors are heavy for such a light vehicle.

I know New Delhi did a lot to convert Rickshaws to CNG but electricity would be even better. Let us know if you ever work on that. Would would like to hear about how things are moving over there. What part of India are you from?

Renga Iyengar (not verified)    December 12, 2012 - 9:56PM

In reply to by Nicolas Zart

Hi Nickolas

Nice to know that you know the true Indian invention of the modern times the 'Rickshaw'. Yes, after the invention of the number Zero, we went to sleep and woke up to invent the Rick !

Also you can't help but falling in love with this three wheel wonder on Indian roads with a single cylinder two or four stroke petrol engine. Indians love this creature for the convenience and economy it fact there are Rickshaw races on Indian roads (mostly deserted ones ) where there is lot of betting goes on ( many of them are not very much legal !)

I am from Chennai the southern metropolis of India. At least Delhi tried to put CNG - which has lesser emissions, but in Chennai we find the Ricks are going to Diesel (Diesel is cheaper in India by about 40%).

I agree with you a hub motor as used in bi-cycles would be useful for the Rick. I tried to get one such motor from China to retro fit the front wheel of a Rick. It just did not work out due to many hurdles in getting the whole thing from china.

But I am sure with the available technology we can just offer such retrofit to a Rick. India wants to go electric in transport mainly because of the cost of petrol & diesel is quite high - probably the highest in the whole world..

For the Rick - which are commercial three wheel taxis - an electric wheel will offer a lot of cost savings. I have discussed it with many auto drivers here and they do agree. It will reduce their daily expenses and make them save money.

As usual the Indian Automobile market is not going electric till now as it has sunk billions into Engine plants. Even Hybrids are not there. But I was told many of the Indian auto majors - like Maruti, Tata Motors, Hyundai, Bajaj etc are planning to enter the market with electric in the near future.

But I am not sure about the technology levels. Many of them will offer Lead acid battery technologies for which there are plenty of Indian sources and there are literally thousands of road side shops offering lead acid battery repairs.

There are some electric two wheelers here - totally imported from China - but not many are believing in chinese auto products..also they are more expensive than the local petrol ones..

I am sure the Indian market is ready for electric - we are just waiting to see our roads becoming quieter. In my opinion it is the hybrid which is going to win here at the end atleast in the Rickshaw segement.


Nicolas Zart    December 14, 2012 - 10:42AM

In reply to by Renga Iyengar (not verified)

Hi Renga,

We landed in Chennai and love Tamul Nadu. My favorite place was Pancheekuram. I was just talking about it yesterday with my Ayurvedic doctor. Funny.

The other problem you have in India is the electricity access and water. If water can go further inland with electricity, it would make sense to bring in more EVs. What is that Indian EV company? I saw a shop in Pondeechery. Those cars are a good platform to start with. While lead batteries is a good start, they life expectancy and overall cost might not make them worthwhile in the long run. Then again paying upfront for a lithium is steep. It's a tricky balance.

I hope to see in the news you were the one who got Chennai to switch its Ricks to electricity. Next time I'm there, I'll give you a shout.

Renga Iyengar (not verified)    December 14, 2012 - 12:43PM

In reply to by Nicolas Zart

Welcome to India, Nike !

It is all sort of co-incidence - you write an article, I see it and put a word about it and talk of three wheelers etc and you are here..

I think you are referring 'Kancheepuram' as 'Pancheekuram' ! It is an ancient town referred in ancient scripts..supposed to be an example of how a city should be. It is also a city of hundreds of temples which even the local resident there would not have visited !

Hope you are enjoying the Indian scenes - the noise, dust, confusion and the cows one the road and elephants in temples ! You cannot miss it - but we don't see any more all these.

In India there are about 1.2 billion people having about 1.2 billion problems..water is one of them. Electricity is one of them. A good road to travel is one of them. Many have houses which leak during rains and these houses are constructed by government..! The list is endless.

We have stopped counting all these..because we find there is a gang of very hard working people who are working very hard to keep India and its people poor. These people call themselves as politicians - the MPs, MLAs, Ministers etc etc. Only when politics go away from India, this nice country of mine will get water, roads and all that !

To my knowledge there is no real EV car company in India. There are a few companies who have got chinese bikes and selling it here. But people are not trusting them - since if anything goes wrong, you can't do a damn by yourselves and the company which sold you will also not do anything..the whole EV scene here is some sort of 'Ply-by-night' variety - sell and forget kind of.

I was studying a rick today. I have decided to generate a few lakhs as loan from somebody to put a simple conventional DC motor - not the hub motor etc which is what all the people are thinking when they think of a EV.

If you see the rick's construction, you will find that it does not even have a 'differential' in the rear wheel - but a pair of Universal joints. It is some kind of wonder engineering - probably created by species which come in UFOs ! You can simply replace the engine with the conventional DC motor and make it work.

Any way, very nice to hear that you are here in India.

Complete all your trip plans and come to chennai.

We will meet somewhere and probably I will take you to our famous Marina Beach in a new Rick (which has lesser noise like a helicopter - normal rick sounds like a fighter jet of world war vintage !)

With Kind regards


Renga Iyengar (not verified)    December 17, 2012 - 12:04AM

In reply to by Nicolas Zart


Yes, Reva is India's First Commercial EV. Quite a successful one. But one cannot call it as a CAR in the Indian Sense of a car which takes anywhere from 5 to 10 people at times. Our own brand called Ambassador can take ten people. Reva is a four wheel scooter !

Kanchi Puram aka Kanchi is a great city.

It had even Buddist and Jain temples but now only the Hindu ones stand. Acts of Hindu Terrorism done long back promoted by Tamil Kings induced by orthodox Hindu Clergy of those days.. after some time the people have thrown out these fanatical ideas and learned the basics of secularism.

Now history is repeating itself from Saudi Arabia !

Otherwise we would have had scenes like Iraq here when the christian clergy came here. But Christianity is not new to India - it came here when St.Paul visited Kerala in the year like 1st century AD. I am sure you would have known the St.Thomas is buried in a hill which is known as St.Thomas Mount. It is a great church to see. Go there if you have time.

What a great page - allowng us to talk about EV and History at the same place. I do not know who else is reading this one seems to be commenting either on the EV motor or about Kanchipuram (from now on pl say Kanchi !).

Long live the Internet !


Nicolas Zart    December 24, 2012 - 3:19PM

In reply to by Renga Iyengar (not verified)

You need to send me more information about a ten seater EV. Yes, the REVA is small but it's a start. I never considered this very important aspect of locomotion where you live, more than 4 or 5 people in a car. Great point. Nicolas

Renga (not verified)    December 24, 2012 - 10:50PM

In reply to by Nicolas Zart


You are right. The 1.25 billion people need a replacement for the centuries old bullock carts they still use here. A bullock cart can carry about 20 people !

Ofcourse, in the city of chennai where we have a unique thing called 'share auto' in which about 10 to 14 people travel (yes really travel) for a distance of 10 km during peak hours. This share auto is between an auto ( which is a costly option costs about Rs 80 to 100 minimum for about 6 km ) and a town bus (which is a cheaper at about Rs 10 ). Share Autos charge you an average of Rs 10 to 30 flat rate for a distance upto 25 kms. This is also an invention modern India has given to the world next to the three wheel auto.

This is the vehicle for a new kind of EV. At present the share auto is usually a diesel vehicle from Tata Motors of which there are two or three variants. You can say it is typically a golf cart kind of vehicle but can run much faster at about 50 to 60 km or even more per hour - even in traffic jams !

These are usualy four wheel vehicles but you also have a three wheel vehicles !

You can see some of the typical india images for share auto google images

Take a look.

As of now no one has dared to make this vehicle a EV, but it can be made very easily. All you need to do is put a rectangular box with four wheels one , one or two electric motors and one or two steerings so that it can be driven on both ends !

New challenges are there for automakers all over the world in India !