Protean Electric in-wheel motors rolling toward production

A new set of wheels is on the way.

Protean Electric has teamed up with a major automobile manufacturer to develop its novel in-wheel electric motor technology, with the intent of using it in a production car.

The Michigan-based company is working with FAW-Volkswagen, a Chinese automaker part-owned by VW Group, to integrate the system into a battery-powered Bora sedan demonstration vehicle.

Based on the last-generation VW Jetta, FAW-VW has been working for a couple of years on an all-electric version of the car using more conventional electric-drive technology. But now it is re-engineering it with Protean to incorporate its in-wheel motors.

Protean says that installing its motors directly at the wheel eliminates the need for driveshafts and [SB1] other components, while offering better control of the power delivery to each wheel.  The design also incorporates all of the electronics required to operate them, so they don’t require a separate unit located somewhere else in the vehicle, as all electric cars currently use.

The Bora is being developed as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with one motor at each wheel. The Protean motors feature an inside-out design, with the stator on the inside and rotor on the outside, and are bolted directly to the wheels, where they deliver 100 hp and 739 lb-ft of torque each, the latter as much as the twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 in a Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG. Each motor should cost about $1,500 when series production begins.

However, Protean Vice President of Business Development Ken Stewart notes that while they plan to have a working prototype on the road in 2014, a production vehicle for FAW-VW is likely still several years down the road.

The company is also in talks with several other automakers through its offices in the U.S., China and the U.K.