13 years ago, Proton was already developing electric vehicles

Like other carmakers, Proton will soon introduce New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) which are electrified vehicles with either hybrid powertrains or battery electric powertrains. In fact, as a separate venture, its subsidiary PRO-NET, will launch the fully electric smart #1 before the end of the year.

Although Proton has said that its first EV model will be launched in 2025, the carmaker was already looking at electric vehicles as far back as 2010. However, back then, it was clear that there would be minimal demand for such vehicles.

The high technology cost would also make them expensive to produce and with its commitment to provide Malaysians with affordable cars, it would be a big challenge to price EVs affordably.

Nevertheless, Proton R&D carried out studies and even developed two electrified models based on the Saga and Exora, with different powertrain approaches for each model.

The Saga EV
The Saga EV prototype had a single 3-phase AC synchronous motor with a 65 kW (88.4 ps) output powering the front wheels. Electricity was supplied by a 300V lithium-ion polymer battery pack with a 22 kWh storage capacity.

Proton Saga EV prototype [2010]

Besides being recharged from an external source, the battery pack was also recharged while the car was being driven. It had a regenerative braking system – a common feature in today’s EVs – which would convert the kinetic energy generated while braking into electrical energy.

This was then sent to the battery pack, adding some extra energy (though not enough to keep the car running continuously without external recharging).

Proton Saga EV prototype [2010]

Proton did not provide recharging times but factory testing showed that the Saga EV could travel up to 138 kms on a fully charged battery pack. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h was 14.5 seconds, and the maximum speed was said to be 137 km/h.

The Exora E-REV
For this prototype, a series hybrid powertrain with a generator was installed in an Exora MPV (which had been launched one year earlier). The function of the generator was to recharge the 300V lithium-ion battery pack and extend the operating range of the vehicle.

The generator was a 407 cc rotary combustion engine, chosen because it was compact and light. This same idea of a range extender concept using a rotary engine can be found in the latest Mazda MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV which was launched in 2022.

Proton Exora E-REV [2010]

The Exora E-REV was developed in collaboration with Frazer-Nash Research (which had expertise in electric range extender powertrains) and Lotus Engineering.

Award-winner
The Exora E-REV made news in the UK when it won a top prize in the Brighton – London Future Car Challenge in November 2010. It beat 63 other vehicles in the Best Range Extender Electric Vehicle category by achieving 50 kms/litre. This was even better than the project target which was said to be 35 kms/litre.

Performance-wise, the Exora E-REV’s 70 kW (95 ps) synchronous motors could send it from standstill to 100 km/h in 11 seconds and reach a top speed of 140 km/h. Without the generator in use, the range was 70 kms but when the generator recharged the battery pack, the range was said to be as much as 805 kms.

There had been plans to produce the Exora E-REV for sale in Malaysia at around RM100,000 but this never happened.

The rare extra-long Proton Perdana Limousine

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