What Protean Electric is calling an “in-wheel electric drive system” is a new innovation in the world of electric vehicle design.
According to their website:
“Protean Drive™ is a fully-integrated, direct-drive solution that combines in-wheel motors with an integrated inverter, control electronics and software – no separate large, heavy and costly inverter is required. Each motor packages easily 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.”
What that means for non-gear heads is fewer parts and more of the battery energy being used to directly power the vehicle. All of which could add up to significant increases in fuel economy - Protean estimates up to 30%.
The video below is an animation of how the technology is incorporated into an electric vehicle through it’s wheels.
With some $84 million in new venture funding, the company is set to manufacture prototypes in early 2013 and roll out volume production from their factory in China in 2014.
Another plus to the Protean Drive system is the fact that you can retrofit existing vehicles with the new technology.
Whether Protean Electric can deliver on their promises remains to be seen. What is clear is that electric vehicles are an important part of our efforts to decrease oil usage in America.
There is a lot to follow in this arena with initiatives like electric car rentals for those who are curious about them, ideas about how natural gas could become a less polluting power source for electric vehicles and even the potential for electric vehicles to charge while they drive. The electric car’s potential to wean us off oil is apparent, and there are plenty of people and companies that will be innovating to capitalize on that potential.