Hybrid Conversions Could Top 500,000 Units by 2020

 Protean F-150

Experts in the field of alternative powertrain technology are predicting significant growth in the hybrid market for fleet and commercial pickup trucks by 2020 as companies search for new ways to save money. By then, there could be as many as 500,000 converted pickup trucks and cargo vans on the highways.

About six months ago, we drove a Protean prototype F-150 with four electric motors housed inside each rim and found the vehicle impressive and quirky.

"Rising operating costs, shrinking budgets and green mandates are hard to balance when your fleet still has a job to do every day," said Ken Stewart, vice president of Protean Electric. "The time is right for a system that can add the benefits of hybrid technology to light-duty vehicles that are already in service.” 

Most of this new hybrid retrofit market is expected to come from converting light-duty government and commercial fleets, and companies like Protean are poised to step in and fill the need.

Protean says its system can be easily integrated into a broad range of vehicles and can boost fuel economy by more than 30 percent, depending on the size of the battery and the driving cycle. That means fleet owners could get the benefits of a hybrid without the huge upfront costs that go with buying an entirely new vehicle.

Since these vehicles often have a lifecycle of two to six years beyond the normal lifecycle of a retail vehicle, system costs can be amortized over more years after the vehicle is already in service, Protean says.

Protean F-150 rear

Protean’s in-wheel motor produces up to 110 horsewpoer (81 kilowatts), occupies the unused space behind 18-inch aluminum wheels and can be fitted to a conventional rear or beam axle. Since each motor has its own self-contained inverter controller, the system requires less space onboard the vehicle for motor power electronics. Protean drive systems use regenerative braking, and a redundant disc-brake design is being developed to meet all necessary safety requirements.

Systems similar to the Protean model could offer advantages to front-, rear- or four-wheel-drive vehicles that run on gas, diesel or even compressed natural gas, and work in both full-size and compact pickups.


Clever, yet weird, system. Whatever it takes I suppose.

Why get a hybrid conversion when GM already sells Hybrid trucks! It seems Ford just cannot compete with the proven power and reliability of a GM hybrid truck! They need other people to do it for them! GM wins again!

Just like G.M. needs other people to do diesels and transmissions for them.

I wish them luck but it doesn't seem so viable to me. It brings a whole new vision of accelerator runaway issues of the past. I could imagine rapid loss of vehicle control from one or more wheel's suddenly giving erroneous throttle control.

The beginning of the end...


I love how you always say ''GM wins again''...like it needs to be justified lol.

By the way isn't it a little early to be drinking coolaid?


Read a little closer... This is an electric conversion, not a hybrid. And this is for any vehicle, it's just shown on a Ford. I guess the mistake is understandable if you treat this site like a picture book and skip the reading part


If they handle it similar to the way they do current drive-by-wire control systems, they should offer similar safety and reliability. Pretty much every new car on the road has been DBW for a few years now...they've got this one mostly figured out.

Most DBW systems use a pair of potentiometers working in tandem (and in opposite directions...i.e. as you depress the accelerator pedal, the resistance signal from one sender increases, while the other decreases). If the computer monitoring these signals (sometimes the PCM, sometimes a dedicated DBW processor) sees any deviation outside what it "expects" to see, the throttle body valve is closed and the engine returns to idle. The computer is also monitoring other things such as the RPM, MAP sensor, etc. and can cut ignition or fuel injection if the engine doesn't immediately return to idle.

Admittedly, many of these checks wouldn't be available on an all electric, Protean-type drive system but there are other things which could be monitored (vehicle speed, electrical load and so forth) which could be used to implement failsafes.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that any such system that made it into production would likely have adequate built-in failsafes (just like DBW does today) that would make unintended acceleration more or less impossible (just as it is today).

Few of the rednecks on this board seem to be aware of it, but the Toyota Debacle a few years back was traced to old people accidentally hitting the gas...oerator error. No engineeering faultwas ever found. And believe me, if something in the vehicles' design HAD been at fault, it would've been front page news.

Hybrid conversions are just the beginning. For trucks to meet the federal fuel economy standards, we are going to see many radical changes that will result in trucks of the future unrecognizeable as trucks now. Automakers are going to be forced to make changes we as consumers may not want in an effort to meet the standards (which is another reason why federal mandates are an economically inefficient means of reducing oil consumption - increased fuel taxes would at least allow the consumer to dictate what type of trucks are built; but I digress, I'm going off on a tangent). Prices will go up dramatically as well. At least we may see more small diesels, hopefully anyway.

@ Luke in CO
Economically inefficient could be allowed if the changes were to save the planet, but will they?

My point isn't to argue the effort to reduce oil consumption/emissons - that is a different discussion. If one accepts the notion that we need to reduce oil consumption and produce more fuel efficient vehicles, increasing the cost of fuel is the most economically efficient means of obtaining that goal (that's not just me saying that, DOT economists said as much in testimony to Congress).

To your question, the changes will no doubt result in vehicles aimed at "saving the planet," but at what cost?

What you say is completely true, but that reduced oil consumption would come at a cost to the economy. Not saying they shouldn't do it, mind you, just pointing out that nothing happens in a vacuum and the law of unintended consequences would likely come back and bite our illustrious elected officials in the ass in the form of not getting re-elected.

There is a reason higher oil taxes haven't been put into place yet and that reason is because it would be hard on the economy and thus, extremely politically unpopular.

Unfortunately governments create unhealthy environments due to their interference. They push hybrids and corn fed ethanol to the detriment of systems that are more cost effective in the short to intermediate term. 1/2 of GM hybrids are purchased by the USA government. Hydrogen fuel is the future, but what do we do to get there?
The intermediate steps should be driven by the marketplace not tax dollars.

I think the beauty of this sytem is thaT fleets could retrofit this system to older trucks. You can replace the drivetrain, wheels, axles, and brakes with this system extending the usefull life of your fleet.

@Jason H.
Completely agree. No politician with any hopes of getting re-elected would ever propose an increase in the fuel tax as an alternative to federal mandates, no matter how long it has been since the tax has been increased. But we, as the voting public, have to take the blame for that, since the word "tax" illicits such a negative kneejerk reaction at the polls. Good times and bad, no one ever wants to pay more in taxes.

You're right...But what most people don't seem to grasp is that, in most cases, these things will all take care of themselves in due time because of natural market forces.

Politicians just want to appear that they are "doing something." And so we are subject to the endless effluvia of laws eminating from Washington that most often only serve to screw things up.

There are rare cases (emissions comes to mind) where the impact of free market forces is spread unevenly and governmental regulations serve a useful purpose, but even some of those have almost gone too far. In most cases, mandates, regulations, and subsidies just end up "playing favorites" and hurting more people/businesses than they really help.

In other words, most real economic progress comes in spite of government efforts, rather than because of it.

WE dont need to reduce oil consumption. Other countries do. China and India got along just fine for the last 1000 years with rickshaws and horses, they can do it for another 1000. We need the oil.


There was one well reported case in San Diego where all 4 occupants were young and died on impact. I recall the driver was a police or sheriff officer. And there were other cases where drivers were able to coax the vehicle to the dealership with the engine racing and no on board.

As far as safety goes, each wheel controller would need to communicate with the other to ensure sanity. There'd need to be some brain power at each wheel, design redundancy, and even then there's a good chance for failures to occur. At that point there needs to be a simultaneously safe failure mode response among all wheel controllers. That's a tough one.

I still wonder how the electronics and motors will handle being submerged in water.

Toyota had a Supra race car with this type of technology YEARS AGO, this is not new news and the Supra was the first to not only win a race but a 24 hour race at that!


"I recall the driver was a police or sheriff officer."

That does not mean they know how to drive properly!

That was a case of DRIVER ERROR as with 77% of ALL accidents here!

If you cannot reach down and move back a floormat while driving and keeping your eyes on the road and the other hand on the wheel, then you fall into the same category as the folks that called 911 because they got lost in a corn maze in the northeast!

You can't fix STUPID!


@ken - it was a 20 year veteran of CHP. The official report clearly showed a stuck floor mat under the gas pedal. The car was a dealership "loaner" with incorrect floormats, and it had a push button start/stop that had to be held down for IIRC 5 seconds. The accident report also showed that the brakes had been applied to slow the vehicle down and were fried to the point of failure. All occupants were killed. 911 tapes showed that there was an attempt to free the stuck pedal. There were no apparent attempts noted at putting the vehicle into neutral.

Oxi thinks that anyone that crashes a Toyota product is an idiot.

Statistically, unintended accelleration reports (please note these are just reports, not factual events) involving Toyota are double the statistical average. Volvo has a similar event ratio as Toyota. Most cases are being proven (regardless of brand) to be driver error.
When the Toyota fiasco hit, there was a huge spike in cases. Most were greedy people jumping on the litigation bandwagon. Some used it as an excuse to run from police.

What a sham...

It is proven by credible scientists there is NO such thing as man made global warming !!

The current administration and Al Gore and others made a huge bunch of money by lying and brain washing people about global warming,it is not caused by man !! Furthermore we are going into a cold cycle !! It always fluctuates cycles since the beginning of time.

And a funny thing,getting the lithium ion for the electric car batteries actually causes more harm to the environment than a regular gasoline powered car.People think a battery car is made from fairy dust,in actuality they are wrecking the ancient rice fields in Japan to get the valuable lithium ion and it destroys the earth for ever,not like drilling for oil after they are done its returned back to better than before conditions....

People looking to get off of foreign oil and buying an electric/hybrid will be in shock as all the lithium comes from oversea's..China has the worlds greatest ammount of it and without it you cannot make a battery.Ban hybrids they will make us more dependand on foreign batteries and it is proven a hybrid pollutes more than a gas powered vehicle over the average vehicle life time !!

The U.S gets most of its oil from Canada,and it is proven the land is left in better condition than before they drilled,hardly any impact on new drilling technology ! Furthermore,wind mills kill more birds than any oil drilling operation,400,000 plus per year killed by windmills vs 100 or so oiled birds !!! And nobody blames big wind,this world is full of brainwashed drones !!!


oxi,Toyota fanboys !!

NASA said the random excelleration was not electrical,but mechanical !! Toyota has a problem and it is a mechanical isssue !!!! Toyota's have the most major problems than any other manufacturer !

Rust on body
Rust of Frame
Random excelleration
5.7 camshaft blows up
Engine sludge 3 million V-6 engines destroyed
Lexus v-6 self destruct
Ball joint issues
Drive shaft issues
Breaking side glass
Bad door welds on Sienna that doors pop open while driving

These are all within the past 5 years !!! More and more,cant mention them all ,are major lemons !!

If any truck should be a hybrid next it should be the Tacoma.

Tacoma has more ground clearance for the hybrid battery and with oxi's new deaver springs he will be one ton capable!

Plus its cheaper and lighter for more fuel savings. Tacoma is the only path of least spending to achieve these goals!

The Tacoma will have a hybrid engine soon and one that makes a real differance unlike the fullsize ones!

Hello xs29L

The Northwest passage - the opening between Russia and Canada has opened as the snow has melted and soon the ships from Russia, China, Japan will take that route to come to North America. That's enough proof that Global Warming is real.

This type of conversion will be lot more economical than the expensive premiums that GM charges on its Hybrids. Also all the GMs 5 Hybrids (3 SUVs & 2 PUs) are falling in sales.

This in wheel motor is an excellent concept as the power goes directly to the wheels bypassing the transmission. It also saves space.

Do I even bother responding to utter silliness or just leave it alone.....decisions, decisions.

All Automakers have =made a batch or two or twelve of bad cars/trucks/whatever over the past 100 years. Did Toyota have an issue with one specific design on the accelerator pedal, yes. Could NASA figure out if this caused any stuck pedals, no. Were all cases investigated found to be driver error? Yes!

I think Oxi put it a little bluntly but you really can't fix stupid. There isn't a production car made that can overpower the brakes. NONE. Both Motortrend and Car and drive did the simple tests to show this and they did in the 80's with Audi. It just can't be done and the Camry in particular can stop from 60-0 with the brakes on and the accelerator floored in less time than a Mustang GT could with no gas pedal and full on the brakes. Please review car and Driver for their results rather than flame me.

I am not even going to touch xs29L's comment because most all of us can point him to some actual data showing AGW, the overall warming and that Li in batteries is relatively easy to come by, bare a teaspoon of the stuff is in the battery, they are non-toxic and fully recycled with significantly lower emissions than any regular ICE.

On the actual topic of the article, I don't see a lot of conversions happening once the automakers start producing more strong hybrids and ER-EV's themselves. These conversions will be insanely expensive and not have the factory backing and warranty. I am not saying you won't see some but they won't likely catch on as the newest, latest and greatest thing.

Sweet!!!! A FWD F150, a sign of things to come

This could be a great system for all service vehicles that stay on the road for a prolonged life cycle. It could be used for trucks and cars that are used for different agencies, such as EMS, Law Enforcement, and Delivery. Not sure if it is a sure fire solution, as some have mentioned, but it may help in the short-term until newer technology arrrives. I know I have seen some trucks and public buses that run on natural gas. Many cities have converted their public transportation offerings to this. Perhaps others will see a benefit to implement this technology into their current vehicles. It all depends on the cost for such a conversion. I wonder which is cheaper, natural gas conversion or this Protean device?

Ford and Toyota recently signed an agreement to develop hybrid trucks, which makes a lot of sense for both of them as their systems share the same architecture.

Ford has an edge in truck design experience & testing while Toyota already has a rear-drive hybrid E-CVT with a 2-speed transfer case in Lexus vehicles, which is likely what they will adapt to the trucks.

The system on its own would give a minimum 30% boost in city mileage, tho only 5-10% max on the highway. Could a 2016 F-150 be running a 2.7L Eco-Boost + hybrid system? This could result in a full sized truck with over 400 hp and 450 lb-ft combined, retaining max tow capacity, and having combined fuel economy in the mid to high 20's.

Given the new HD truck fuel economy regulations, I would also expect one of the Big 3 to try out the new Eaton Hybrid 6-speed automated manual; it has already been applied in F-450/550 service trucks, including as a plug-in.


Here is a pic of my 1 ton springs:


And my front 200 lbs. coils:


The second biggest problem that Toyota has, the first being a bland (looks & performance) product to begin with, is the age of the majority of their buyers/owners. Most Toyota buyers are elderly. The elderly lead in driver error.

Thanks for filling in those details Lou. I hadn't seen the investigative conclusions.

I'm probably wrong but I thought there were latter cases with drivers standing outside the vehicle at dealerships with engine racing and all pulling and tugging on the throttle made no difference. I guess in the end there's been no recurrence so it's been resolved with past fixes.

I should add toyota's issues are a cake walk compared to this design pitfall doozy. It doesn't take much throttle change to pitch a vehicle in ice, snow, or otherwise slippery roadway.



I saw your new setup on tacomaterritory...

@ Ken
I did a lot of reasearch at the time all of the unintended accelleration news worked its way through the mass "hysteria" media. My wife and I had just bought a Sienna at that time. Her vehicle wasn't part of any recalls. Her van had the floor mat hooks already in it. I did look at her gas pedal and abmittedly, there wasn't a lot of clearance. My 2010 F150 has floor mat hooks as well. If this was a Toyota exclusive problem, why did Ford add hooks to their carpets?
There were 2 clearly defined and proven causes of unintended accleleration that were linked to Toyota.
1. Floor mats jamming the gas pedal.
The CHP officer crash was the most famous and for obvious reasons very carefully investigated. I had a hard time finding valid third party corroborating evidence to any of the other UA claims.
2. Faulty gas pedals.
Toyota was blamed for the gas pedal problem saying it was a bad design.
I don't think so.
2 companies made pedals for Toyota using the same specifications provided by Toyota. Denso and CTS. The only difference between the 2 designs were the wiring harness connectors. The only pedals recalled were CTS pedals. If it was a Toyota engineering flaw, wouldn't that of showed up with Denso pedals ? Ford recalled CTS pedals made for their Chines Transit vans, and Dodge even had a small recall covering CTS pedals.
Don't you think it was odd that the mass "hysteria" media made no mention of those recalls?

Unintended accelleration does happen and most investigated cases are proven to be driver error. I've seen cases of UA, and have had it happen to me personally. They were mostly due to cold (read Arctic) weather freezing throttle assemblies. I've encountered cases of driver error as well.

@oxi - thanks for the pic showing your rear shock mount hanging below the axle line. I thought that was a huge design flaw, or is it only a design flaw on full sized trucks?


Yeah, that's only a problem on NON-Tacomas. LOL!

(...In reality, shocks tend to hang lower than axles because that allows installation of longer shocks which allows more wheel travel. Having longer shocks without taller shock towers increase articulation at the expense of clearance)

As for Hybrids, I think this is just an interim phase in the Automotive market that will pass when battery capacity increases/battery weight decreases enough to make electric-only vehicles feasible.

I mean...I'm sure they'll work fine when they are new, but since there is (literally) twice as much sh!t to go wrong on a hybrid, I'm going to sit this phase out...


Uhhh, my leaf springs are above the axle, always have been!

Toyota is not stupid like other manufacturer's to mount them below the axle on 4x4's...



I still have work to design like bumpstops for the rear, I am going to make one from a semi-tractor, weld it into a box and onto the frame...

Also a custom rear bar welded above and the back of the axle to prevent axle flex under full torque that will disturb the pinion angle...

The front is fine for now with over 13 inches of ground clearance under the skid plates!

@oxi - your pic clearly shows the mount hanging below the axle. We are talking about shocks, not springs. You always whine about mount location for shocks.
Are you now changing that to springs?

I think its safe to say that oxi would make a great politician. The guy flip flops with the best of them.

"...Uhhh, my leaf springs are above the axle, always have been!

Toyota is not stupid like other manufacturer's to mount them below the axle on 4x4's..." -oxi

Amen brother! The leaf-springs on my Dodge Ram 2500 Power Wagon are mounted above the axle, as well. We are part of the elite!

@Buy American - now all you have to do is saw it in half and it might be small enough to be a great offroader :)

@ oxi Here is a challenge for you. You claim that "Toyota is not stupid like other manufacturer's to mount them (springs)below the axle on 4x4's..." I would like you to name one 4x4 truck that has the axle mounted on top of the springs. I've seen a lot of 4x4 trucks but have never seen one with the axle mounted like that. I suspect that you are full of it as usual.

@Jordan L

Short-wheelbase Jeeps (back when they HAD leaf springs...pre 1997) were spring under axle. And stock-for-stock a CJ or YJ Wrangler will go WAAAAY more places than than you can get to in a Taco (I've owned both).

There's a lot of good reasons for an SUA setup...lower center-of-gravity, less spring needed to prevent spring wrap, protection of steering components, more stable highway ride..

In fact lots of Jeep owners that switched to spring over axle setups in the early '00s are reconsidering and switching back to SUA setups these days...mostly for COG reasons.

The Chevy S-10 ZR2, yeah leafs below the axle...

If you re-read my posts, most lower shock mounts sit halfway between the wheel and diff in a VULNERABLE position and yes you can see them driving around town and yes I laugh at them all the time...

You drive behind a Tacoma 4x4, you see nothing but axle from the rear!!!

My lower shock mounts are so tight and close to the wheel, I would damage the wheel and tire before damaging those lower shock mounts!

They are very tight, BIG differance when looking at the horrible lower shock mounts on other pickups!

Like I said, drive behind a Tacoma 4x4 and then most other full-size pickups. You will see the differance where the Tacoma you see axle and the others a lower shock mount in la-la land waiting to get smacked!

@ oxi - you are a piece of work.
Take a look at the Raptor or any F150 with "outboard" shocks. They are close to the wheel also.
Here is your pic

Here are a few Raptor pics.

Oxi - this is what you said on a Raptor thread
Where is the most important feature, GROUND CLEARANCE numbers?
"And are the rear lower shock mounts hanging below the axle line like all domestics?"


Can the bullshit.

I tripped across another Oxi comment about lower shock mounts:

Busted shocks? Have you driven behind a domestic branded 4x4 pickup? Nice lower shock mounts is all I can say! Toyota tucks them away, much better setup!

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