I think Protean Electric is neat, but I’m not sure how far they will go- they seem like lots of talk and collecting money and very little delivery- lots of these new technologies are like that- There was the EDISON project using battery power in electric vehicles to back up the grid? It was only done on an island of Denmark, Bornholm, and it was shut down in 2011- as far as I can tell, there were only 5 cars used in the project, and nobody is using the technology now- just be careful of new technology by press release- known in the industry as ‘vaporware’- until you can put your hands on it, you probably should treat it like it doesn’t exist.
The Protean concept has some interesting things, but they still don’t get over the fact that their wheels are HEAVY – each wheel is 70 pounds. They have some whitepapers on how it shouldn’t affect handling, but I’m more concerned about 2 things:
- reliability on the bumps and scrapes of everyday roads- to make a brushless motor efficient, you need heavy permanent magnets running with a very small gap to the stator- anything bends and contacts boom that wheel is toast- the redundancy they tout won’t mean anything, since it still relies on all the mechanical parts being there for balance.
- heat- 100hp per wheel will generate a lot of heat, even if the wheels are really efficient- they have to pipe coolant to the wheel to/from a radiator mounted on the car, so in addition to massive electrical cables to get the current over (they are running the motors off of low voltage, 12 or 24V, with on-board inverters), they also need to run coolant lines.
So really, until we have a pretty massive revolution of permanent magnets (rare earth magnets are great, but not nearly as strong as what you can get with an electromagnet), I think this technology- at least in terms of in-wheel-motors, is limited. With current technology (and conceivable in the next few decades, barring revolutionary and as yet undiscovered new materials), AC induction motors have the most potential, and it would be interesting to see what would be able to fit as a hub motor. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I’ll be a doubter until I can touch it.