Protean Electric gets $40M investment

TROY — Protean Electric, the Troy-based manufacturer of in-wheel electric motors for the transportation industry, announced the completion of a $40 million equity investment as the initial closing of its Series E funding round.

Protean, founded in 2009 as a spinout of a bankrupt English electric motor manufacturer, has approximately 110 employees. The company has research and engineering offices in Troy, Oakland, Calif., Surrey, United Kingdom, and Shanghai, China, and a manufacturing plant in Tianjin, China.

Making the $40 million investment was a group is led by Weifu High-Technology Group Co. Ltd., an auto supplier based in Wuxi, China, and Oak Investment Partners, Protean’s charter investor and a Norwalk, Conn.-based private equity and venture capital firm.

The company said the proceeds of the investment will support its “ongoing business activities and help to establish a global licensing model covering all key markets.”

Weifu also agreed to form a joint venture in China to manufacture Protean’s latest motor, the ProteanDrive Pd18. A technology center will be set up within the joint venture to focus on customer application engineering and manufacturing process engineering. Under the leadership of Protean’s technology center in England, the joint venture will support product development and continuous engineering of in-wheel motor products.

“This investment supports Protean Electric’s position as the world leader of in-wheel motor technology and eDrive systems,” said Protean CEO Kwok-Yin Chan. “As we win more customer projects, our investors are convinced our technology offers tangible vehicle level benefits. The relationship with Weifu also provides great support for the industrialization of ProteanDrive, allowing us to focus on our technology and software to deliver enhanced vehicle functionality such as augmented ABS, torque vectoring, and control of the digital corner.”

Added Weifu Chairman Xuejun Chen: “We believe Protean Electric’s in-wheel motor technology will have a transformative impact on the industry and all vehicle users. Protean’s wheel motors allow designers to develop vehicles focused 100 percent on client need, with more space, lower floors, greater comfort and even vehicles you can walk into that will travel and park sideways. We are pleased to support Protean as a strategic partner.”

And Bandel Carano, managing partner at Oak Investment Partners, said: “Protean’s patented technology and development of ProteanDrive in-wheel motor products is creating tremendous interest. As the world accelerates digital transformation and vehicles become more autonomous, a smart, stand-alone drive solution that includes integrated power electronics, digital control, embedded autonomous EV sensors and friction brake is set to change how we view and experience transportation.”

Protean designs, develops and manufactures ProteanDrive, a fully integrated in-wheel drive solution. Its current Pd18 product, designed to fit inside an 18” wheel rim, provides the power and torque required to propel hybrid and electric vehicles from C-segment (compact cars) all the way to light commercial categories. Protean’s in-wheel motor is intended to save space on board the vehicle by allowing the drive system to be mounted behind a conventional road wheel and apply torque directly to the wheel and tire.

Each of Protean’s in-wheel motors can deliver 100 horsepower and 935 foot-pounds of torque. The electric motors are designed for use in both front and rear-wheel drive vehicle applications and can be adapted to existing internal combustion engine powered cars and trucks to turn them into hybrids.

Since Protean Electric’s motors fit behind the wheels of a vehicle, they can be used as part of a drive system that does not require a gearbox, differential, or drive shafts. This creates an energy-efficient drivetrain that potentially saves cost, reduces weight and frees up space on board the vehicle that was previously dedicated to drivetrain components. According to Protean Electric, its in-wheel motors can increase fuel economy by over 30 percent depending on the battery size and driving cycle in a hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

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