Protean Electric, which calls itself "the global leader in the development and commercialization of in-wheel electric drive systems", has 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 "breakthrough 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.
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.
"There's tremendous interest around the world in adopting Protean's in-wheel electric drive systems, which enable breakthrough cost and performance advantages, including high power and torque directly to the wheel as well as integrated power electronics and unparalleled regenerative braking efficiency," said Bandel Carano, managing partner at Oak Investment Partners. "China, in particular, presents a compelling near-term opportunity as it seeks to reduce its reliance on petroleum imports. 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 address fuel economy and emissions challenges."
"With this round of investment in place, Protean Electric is now positioned to move aggressively to production and into the market," said Bob Purcell, chairman and CEO of Protean Holdings Corp. "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."
Protean's In-wheel Electric-drive Solution
"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."
Features of Protean's in-wheel motors include:
- Fuel economy improvements up to 30 percent depending on battery size
- Highest torque density of any of today's leading electric propulsion systems
- 81 kW (110 hp) and 800 Nm (590 lb.-ft. torque) in each motor
- Weight of only 31 kg (68 lbs.) per motor
- Fits within the space of a conventional 18- to 24-inch road wheel
- Superior regenerative braking capabilities, which allow up to 85 percent 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 unique 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 prestigious 2012 Technology Pioneers Award from the World Economic Forum as being one of most promising start-up technology companies in the world.
IDTechEx notes that in-wheel motors are only slowly penetrating the EV market as yet because they are best justified when the vehicle is "born electric". As more and more vehicles are born electric, in-wheel will start to sell well particularly where the cost of extra motors is offset by removal of other parts of the drive train or where vectored power and other benefits command a premium price. The Protean device uses rare earth magnets but that is no problem to the Chinese who, for a while longer, control supply of rare earths.