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KIA: Now it's the edgy, wedgy Koup

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Going green: Reinventing the wheel

2013-08-19 12:25

NOW ANY CAR COULD BE A HYBRID: Using an electric motor housed in a vehicle’s wheel, any vehicle could be turned into a hybrid. Image: Fleet magazine

The race is on - instead of chasing speed, automakers are chasing reduced carbon emissions. One solution is electric traction, reports Fleet magazine.

Automakers are looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions and meet government targets. One such innovation comes from Protean Electric which has developed an electric motor housed inside the wheel hub.


The technology is a modern development of an old idea. Ferdinand Porsche sold 300 cars using electric in-wheel motors more than a century ago. The availability of cheap fuel put an end to that.

In 2013, the escalating economic and environmental costs of fuel are bringing the potential for in-wheel motors back.


Protean Electric’s vice president of business development, Ken Stewart, said:  “Why not put torque at the wheel? That’s where you need it. Not only does the motor fit inside wasted space, you don’t need drive shafts, transmission, differential or any mechanical connections.

“You just press the throttle pedal, which sends a command along a wire to provide more torque at the wheel.”

Protean is still testing the motor on prototypes and expects production to start in 2014. The motor would be ideal for retrofitting on a car to augment its existing powertrain, reports Fleet magazine.


Protean believes fleet operators can benefit from it as it would reduce the carbon footprint of fleets by making all their vehicles into hybrids with two electric-driven and two conventionally driven wheels, all controlled by smart software.
The motors would also be useful for automakers redesigning existing models.

Stewart said: “Companies realize they can meet the increasingly tough environmental norms over the next two or three years with their own technology, but after that they need larger reductions.

Looking to the future, wheel-based power could lead to the total redesign of the car, with, for example, pod-like vehicles moving sideways into parking spaces.


The wheel may be the natural home for the motor but in many instances it’s the worst possible place, reports Fleet magazine.

It’s subject to vibrations and road irregularities, can be splashed with water and it is often knocked against curbs. The seals within the motors have a difficult job to do. They have to keep foreign matter out of the gap between the rotor and the stator.

Tony Fagg, key account manager at Trelleborg which specializes in sealing solutions, said: “This application requires that the seals meet a combination of thermal and physical challenges. It has needed a number of design and material iterations during development to meet these demands.”

“The car could be parked in a puddle in Alaska that freezes overnight but when the motor starts, the seal quickly reaches a potential friction heat of 160 degrees Celsius.”

Stewart commented: “This is a critical design point for the motor, and I’m confident it’ll work.”

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Read more on:    green  |  hybrid  |  environmental

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