Evergrande acquires in-wheel motor firm Protean in revived EV push

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Evergrande signed a deal with Protean in London, UK on May 30, 2019. (Image credit: Evergrande)

Chinese property developer Evergrande announced Thursday that it acquired British in-wheel motor company Protean for an undisclosed sum, as the conglomerate ramps up efforts to become a leader in the country’s increasingly fraught electric vehicle (EV) industry.

Protean is a UK-based automotive technology company that designs, develops, and manufactures in-wheel motors with operations in the US and China. The in-wheel motor vehicle is considered one of the leading technologies in the automotive industry, and refers to electric vehicles (EV) with separate motors installed close to each of the drive wheels, rather than those propelled by a single motor installed in the position of the engine.

In-wheel motor vehicles negate the need for gearboxes or driveshafts, lowering energy consumption and granting superior drive control. The company in December announced it secured 150 global patents for its ProteanDrive in-wheel motor system, which it intends to license in high volume to global auto brands and tier one auto suppliers.

Evergrande seeks to further consolidate its control over in-wheel electric motor technology, enhancing the strategic layout of the full value chain in the new energy vehicle industry, Shi Shouming, chairman of the company, said in an announcement.

The deal is the company’s latest move as part of its EV push after splitting up with Jia Yueting, the disgraced Chinese billionaire founder of US-based EV startup Faraday Future at the beginning of this year. The real estate giant aims to become the world’s largest EV maker, achieving production capacity of up to 1 million units in the next three years, according to a Bloomberg report.

It acquired 51% share of National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS), the owner of Saab Automobile, for $930 million earlier this year. This was followed by another RMB 1.06 billion (around $154 million) investment in Chinese EV battery firm CENAT 10 days later, as well as a new EV company with a registered capital of $2 billion in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou around the same time.

Domestic EV makers have been struggling amid huge losses, slowing growth, and Tesla’s accelerated move into the China market. Shares of EV maker Nio sank more than 10% on Thursday to $3.24 by market close, after reporting a 50% sequential drop in first quarterly revenue two days earlier.

China is home to 500 EV manufacturers all fighting for market share, many of which including XPeng, VM Motors, and CHJ which have not yet shipped cars as they grapple with the difficulties of consistent mass production and tight funds.