Fu­ture en­gines will pack up to 150 kW and 1 700 Nm into the hub of an 18-inch wheel to drive cars, SUVs or bakkies.

Huge in­ter­est in hub mo­tors

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

LOVERS of cars de­signed with long hoods in which to hide en­gines will soon be able to use all that wasted space as a sec­ond boot, as we did in rear-en­gined cars like the Porsche and VW Bee­tle.

For af­ter a group of Swiss stu­dents’ lit­tle elec­tric car last month recorded a 0 to 100 km ac­cel­er­a­tion in 1,513 sec­onds over a dis­tance of less than 30 me­tres on four hub-wheels, there is a lot of in­ter­est in th­ese bolt-on rolling en­gines.

And with gov­ern­ments around the world now ei­ther sub­si­dis­ing zero emis­sion, ban­ning diesel or leg­is­lat­ing en­gines that achieve at least 5 l/100 km, there is also a huge mar­ket for hub-wheels, with China alone look­ing to equip five mil­lion new en­ergy ve­hi­cles by 2020.

Miche­lin is just one of the wheel mak­ers that hope to sup­ply to this mar­ket, with a hub­wheel mo­tor that it first launched as far back as 2010, but it will be blasted out of the wa­ter by Pro­tean Elec­tric, the com­pany that is set to be­come the world’s largest sup­plier of hub-wheel mo­tors for cars, sport util­ity ve­hi­cles and bakkies.

Pro­tean last week re­ceived $70 mil­lion in fund­ing to make a range of in-wheel mo­tors at a new plant in Tian­jin in China.

While Pro­tean’s in-wheel cur­rent mo­tor is not nearly as strong as the 150 kW and 1 700 Nm hub wheels that pow­ered the Grim­sel, it does make half this power, con­vert­ing the elec­tric­ity di­rectly into power and elim­i­nat­ing the en­ergy waste in power trans­mis­sion.

Suit­able for both pas­sen­ger and com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, Pro­tean mo­tors do not use side shafts or dif­fer­en­tials, which can boost an elec­tri­fied ve­hi­cle’s en­ergy ef­fi­ciency by up to 15% com­pared to a cen­tralised mo­tor in an elec­tric power train.

Pro­tean Elec­tric de­signs, de­vel­ops and man­u­fac­tures Pro­tean Drive in-wheel mo­tors, a fully in­te­grated in-wheel drive so­lu­tion.

Us­ing a scal­able and patented sub-mo­tor ar­chi­tec­ture, and de­signed to fit inside an 18-inch 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.

Fea­tures of Pro­tean’s in­wheel mo­tors in­clude: • 75 kW peak power; • the high­est torque den­sity of any of to­day’s lead­ing elec­tric drive sys­tems; • a mass of only 34 kg per mo­tor; • power and con­trol elec­tron­ics pack­aged inside the mo­tor; • su­pe­rior re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, which al­low up to 85% of the avail­able ki­netic en­ergy to be re­cov­ered dur­ing brak­ing; and • it fits within a con­ven­tional 18-inch road wheel.

Pro­tean said its in-wheel mo­tors and ac­com­pa­ny­ing pro­pri­etary tech­nol­ogy meet all the mar­ket needs listed above.


The Grim­sel elec­tric car that went from stand­still to 100 km/h in 1,5 sec­onds us­ing four hub-wheel mo­tors, each mak­ing 150 kW and 1 700 Nm.

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