Could the Protean hub motor (a.k.a. in-wheel electric drive system) be more significant than I’d thought. They’re at the SAE World Congress this week showing the production version of their in-wheel drive system, and the specs are catching my attention in a big way. And the simplicity of integrating their drive train with a vehicle looks to be marvelous. I suppose it could actually be a game changer for electrified vehicle adoption by enabling the automakers to more quickly integrate electric drive into existing vehicles, making it possible for them to “dabble” with the technology without having to design a vehicle from scratch.
This picture says quite a bit about the system. It’s an electric motor packaged as the wheel hub, it’s designed to integrate with the suspension, and allow the wheel to bolt directly to the package. Hence it’s very simple to integrate with a vehicle, and I could even imagine it being wonderful for electric vehicle converters such as myself. Just bolt the motors into place, run a few cables, mount a battery box and controller somewhere, and you’re done.
The specs they published are also very interesting:-
- Highest torque density of any of today’s leading electric drive systems
- 75 kW (100 hp) peak power and 1,000 Nm (735 lb.-ft.) peak torque in each motor
- Mass of only 31 kg (68 lbs.) per motor
- Fuel economy improvements up to 30 percent in hybrid configurations, as compared to the existing vehicle, depending on battery size
- Superior regenerative braking capabilities, which allow up to 85 percent of the available kinetic energy to be recovered during braking
How do they get this high of a power-to-weight ratio? It’s by turning the motor design inside-out. Unless I’m mistaken this puts the part which gets hot on the outside where it’s easier to cool.
During a press conference at the SAE World Congress, CEO Bob Purcell said their technology is now production-ready, that the design is complete, and that they’re going through the final validation now. The company’s intention is to deliver a component set to the automotive industry that’s ready to go, and fully certified to all prevailing global automotive standards. That sounds like jargon which says an automaker will be able to take the technology and run with it quickly.
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