Protean Electric Inc. is an in-wheel electric motor company that has raised $84 million to open their first plant. They will start producing motors in China even though they do not have any customers yet. GSR Ventures is leading the investment in Protean. Oak Investment Partners put $56 million into the company in 2007 and is participating in this round. The New York Times Group is also contributing in this round along with an industrial group in Liyang, China.
Protean will be setting up operations in Liyang, China, which is about 150 miles west of Shanghai. Liyang offered company tax incentives and temporary use of a factory next year until Protean’s permanent plant goes online in 2014. Protean CEO Bob Purcell used to lead General Motors’ Advanced Technology Vehicles Group from 1994 to 2002. Protean is currently in discussions with several potential customers.
“We believe we’re getting very, very close,” said Purcell. “That’s one of the reasons why the investors were willing to participate at this level right now. They’re very knowledgeable of the discussions we’re having with the potential customers.”
Purcell said that Protean’s first customer will most likely be from China and they are in “very substantive” negotiations with American and European customers. Protean plans to start by building 12,500 motors. Eventually Protean will produce 50,000 units. Protean plans to license their in-wheel motor technology to automotive companies so that they can produce the motors themselves.