25 Jul 2024


Saab’s successor buys UK wheel-motor developer, Protean

Protean says that its in-wheel motor technology delivers improved torque response, faster acceleration, less charging and a greater range for EVs.

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), a subsidiary of the Chinese group Evergrande Health, has acquired the British pioneer of in-wheel motors (IWMs) for electric vehicles, Protean Electric. The acquisition is part of Evergrande’s strategy to become a major player in the global EV industry, and paves the way for NEVS to use Protean’s in-wheel electric drive technology, ProteanDrive, in future products.

Protean Electric, founded in 2008, has devoted more than a million engineering man-hours to develop its ProteanDrive technology, and has more than 160 patents globally covering the motor and its power electronics, controls and manufacturability, with another 150 patents pending. Protean has its roots in a pioneering British developer of pancake motors, Printed Motors (later renamed PML Flightlink), which was founded in 1963 and split in 2009 to form Protean and Printed Motor Works, which still manufactures low-profile motors in the UK. Protean has its headquarters in the UK, but its motors are produced in China.

Compared to conventional electrified powertrains, the in-wheel motors offer improved powertrain efficiency and greater flexibility in vehicle design. The high-torque density ProteanDrive technology integrates a direct-drive electric motor with power electronics and can be used to power a range of vehicles including passenger cars, commercial vehicles and autonomous pods.

Protean Electric will continue to operate as an independent business under Evergrande, while Protean Holdings will be merged into Virtue Surge, a subsidiary of NEVS. The acquisition will give Protean extra resources and business opportunities, with access to a wider pool of skills and experience, as well as a sizeable customer in NEVS.

“This exciting new agreement will enable Protean Electric to fulfil its global potential, and to do so more rapidly,” says Protean CEO, KY Chan. “This acquisition will aid Protean Electric in establishing a strategic advantage in the new energy and mobility markets and bring in new expertise. Evergrande is a well-established and ambitious business, determined to make a mark in the clean mobility arena across the world. We look forward to working closely with the Evergrande and NEVS teams to deploy our technologies.”

NEVS acquired the assets of Saab Automobile following its bankruptcy in 2012. Its head office and main research and development facilities are located in Trollhättan, Sweden, where it has about 700 employees. In December 2015, NEVS signed a strategic collaboration agreement with the Chinese company, Panda New Energy.

Last year, NEVS opened a manufacturing plant in Tianjin, China, and it is building a second plant in Shanghai. A third plant is being built in Guangzhou. In January this year, NEVS acquired a 20% stake in the Swedish supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg. The two companies have formed a joint venture (in which NEVS has a 65% stake) to develop and produce sports cars for a new customer segment

In January 2019, Evergrande Health acquired a controlling (51%) stake in NEVS. Evergrande is combining NEVS, Protean Electric and several other automotive companies to create the New Energy Vehicle group.

China Evergrande Group is a large diversified group listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange with businesses based in real estate, supported by cultural tourism and health services, and led by new-energy vehicles.