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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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100-Year Old Tech Could Accelerate Electric Vehicle Boom

electric car

Electric vehicle makers and legacy automakers have launched in earnest the race to make such EVs so as to win over the public with increased range and powerful batteries.

In all EVs, an electric motor uses power from batteries to drive either two or all four wheels. Now auto equipment manufacturers have started to develop and test in-wheel electric motors—a technology that puts the motor in the hub of the wheel and drives it directly. Some of those in-wheel technology developers claim that they have overcome or are close to overcoming the challenges of using in-wheel motors—costs, additional mass, and road shocks.

The idea of direct in-wheel drive in cars is more than a hundred years old, but at the turn of the 20th century, it lost the race to its rival—the internal combustion engine mounted under the hood of the gasoline and diesel-powered cars.

Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) is credited with inventing the electric wheel-hub motor, as in-wheel motors are also known. The Lohner-Porsche car with the electric hub wheel drive was one of the sensations at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900. Ferdinand Porsche also built the world’s first hybrid car—powered by gasoline and electricity. Related: Tehran: Taking Iran’s Oil Out Of The Market Is ‘Impossible’

Yet, for more than one hundred years the internal combustion engine (ICE) has been dominating car designs and manufacturing.

Now with the EV craze and the race to challenge and beat Tesla, car makers and propulsion makers are testing again the in-wheel technology, helped by the technological advances of the 21st century.

In-wheel motors have a few challenges to overcome. One is that they add more weight to the unsprung mass of the vehicle. Unsprung weight is the wheels, tires, brakes, and anything directly connected to the wheels. The sprung weight includes the chassis, motor, transmission, body, and interior, as well as the passengers and cargo. Another challenge is the higher exposure to road shocks and heat from braking due to the proximity of the in-wheel motor to the wheels.

But companies are trying. Protean Electric, for example, says that it has been testing how in-wheel motors affect unsprung mass and that with its technology, “unsprung mass really isn’t a showstopper after all.”

Protean is building manufacturing facilities in China, and its first factory—in Tianjin—already makes in-wheel motors in low volumes. The company is working with Chinese carmakers to incorporate its in-wheel technology into their electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

In April, Protean and U.S. open-source vehicle designers LM Industries partnered to provide the in-wheel technology for Olli—the world’s first co-created, self-driving, electric and cognitive shuttle.

Slovenian company Elaphe is also making in-wheel technology for application in electric vehicles. Elaphe has tested its fully electric in-wheel drive on a frozen river in China at temperatures of below -30 Celsius (-22 F) to prove that traction control on ice is better than in ICE cars. Related: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Halt Oil Production In Neutral Zone

The Fisker Orbit autonomous electric shuttle will be using in-wheel motor technology for improved interior space, and it will be the first vehicle to test Fisker solid state batteries, company founder Henrik Fisker said earlier this month. The in-wheel technology is that of Protean Electric.

German company Ziehl-Abegg has developed a motor for in-wheel hub drive that could be used in serial hybrid, battery, and fuel cell commercial vehicles.

Of the big carmakers, Nissan, has developed in-wheel motors for the Nissan BladeGlider—a working prototype of its futuristic concept car.


More than 100 years after the world’s first in-wheel motor prototype, manufacturers are testing again the idea of powering a car’s wheels directly, hoping to make breakthroughs in EV technology, design, performance, and driving power. Time will tell if this time around, in-wheel motors can challenge a centrally mounted engine.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Rob Forbes on June 27 2018 said:
    No mention of the fuel which the power station (fossil fuelled) has to burn to charge one of these things then ?

    These will pollute far more than diesel or petrol cars have ever done in the end.

    Don't get me started on disposal of spent batteries and the serious danger to humans and harm these can do to the environment if they are headed for landfill.
  • Rich Giddens on June 30 2018 said:
    What's different now is that increasingly, the grid's power production is becoming cleaner as more natural gas and alternatives are being used to make electricity. But the real game changer is home solar production and storage.
    I believe people who don't want to adopt EV are tech laggards. They make excuses, cite wrong info and are just blind to the future. Remember when the first railroads were built in the early 1800's?. James Buchannon, 15th president and a founder of the Democratic party, was oppossed to railroads and wanted boat canals built like the Erie Canal in NY. Remember the Montgolfier brothers first hot air balloon flight? Remember how the ignorant peasants attacked the balloon with pitchforks because it was an evil spirit? LOL!
    I bought an EV. A Chevrolet Bolt. My old 70 year old neighbor said "where's the gas engine"? and "you can't drive that thing to LA" Rubbish! I just attended my son's UCLA engineering school graduation. No problem,there and back. Im saving a ton of dough with that vehicle that has low operating and insurance costs. No maintenance on the Bolt EV other then inspections, tires, cleaning and a glycol change at 100K miles. I'm not going back to an ICE vehicle. And this is just the 1st generation of EV's....better technology is on the way! Solid state batteries with even more range! Woo hoo!
  • Fredrick S Arnold on July 02 2018 said:
    IC cars are CLEAN and convenient.. & can be refuelled in 5 minutes to go 400 MILES...to anywhere..

    ECs are slow & wasteful, take alot of energy(think of the pollution) to charge batteries and waste 45 minutesa to "refuel"..They may compete, but they NOW take uuuuge TAXPATER SUBSIDIES to even become near competitive..wh is socialism. We don't need them, plus they are TIED to electric cnarging "stations"..and you cannot take a can of electricity along to refuel later..like you CAN with IC vehicles. No Thanks!!
  • cameron cole on July 02 2018 said:
    what happened to all the fracking oil? I thought we were immune now. rich giddens, I like your comment, its time we all go electric, Im waiting for more range and better performance in the cold. I think we should all have solar cells in the roof and a battery to power the house and car. most of use drive around town most of the time. The oil companies have us over a barrel which we can do away with. More public transportation is needed so we don't have to waste our money on cars, gas, insurance toll fees, and traffic tickets. the establishment wants us to be slaves to the existing transportation system which kills and maims tens of thousands every year.

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