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Maker of In-Wheel Electric Car Motors Goes to China

Start-up Protean Electric expects Chinese EV makers to be first to use powerful, space-saving motors
By Eliza Strickland
Posted 19 Mar 2014 | 21:15 GMT

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Illustration: Protean Electric Tucked In: Protean’s in-wheel electric motors would be more powerful than others and save space under the hood.

An innovative in-wheel motor for electric vehicles may get its first tryout in the smoggy, traffic-choked streets of Beijing—and could lead to a wave of powerful and radically redesigned electric cars. Protean Electric, an automotive start-up headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., is currently scouting sites for a manufacturing center in China and says the assembly line will be operational before the end of the year. The company expects its first customers to be Chinese automakers, who will use the motor in their plug-in hybrids or pure electric cars.

Andrew Whitehead, Protean’s director of strategic alliances, says China is becoming a test bed for electric vehicle technology, thanks to strong government support. “The way we see it, the key driver for electric and hybrid technology at the moment are government standards on emissions,” says Whitehead. “The regulations in China are certainly as strict as in Europe and North America, but there appears to be more political will to assist the industry in reaching those standards in China than in the rest of the world.” Air pollution in China’s capital city has reached a crisis point, and both manufacturers and car buyers in China can now benefit from government incentives designed to replace polluting cars with cleaner electric vehicles, Whitehead says.
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