The Proton Emas concept, a range-extended electric hatch shown in 2010

With emissions regulations becoming stricter and stricter by the day, carmakers are turning to electrification as a stepping stone to the future. This topic was raised last week during a video interview with Proton’s chief designer Azlan Othman, who gave some insights into some of the preparations the company was making on the design side.

Asked if Proton has started looking into electrifying its vehicles as part of its future business strategy, Azlan said, “We have to – everyone’s looking into it, we can’t get left behind. But to say it is a major focus, probably not at the moment.”

He also touched on the different design considerations for an electric vehicle. “It represents a lot of challenges for us because of the constraints. A good example is the front face. A lot of people say you can block everything [off] because you don’t need a radiator or engine cooling anymore. But then what happens to the face of the vehicle? Everything you’ve worked for in creating a DNA, what about that?”

Proton is learning from its partner Geely, Azlan said – the Chinese carmaker already has a range of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric vehicles on sale. “In a lot of ways, for us, it’s quite a foreign area. I’m sure Guy [Burgoyne, Geely Design Shanghai vice president, who was also present during the call] has a lot more experience than Proton Design in this area, and that’s where we’re learning from them as well.”

Geely has a wealth of electrification technology that Proton may have access to

The company has long experimented with electric vehicles, with Azlan giving the example of the Emas concept shown at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. That car, in case you didn’t remember, was a range-extended electric hatch designed in partnership with Italdesign Giugiaro, with many of its styling cues ending up on the Iriz.

“[That car] taught us a lot of things in terms of managing packaging and design,” said Azlan. “But so much has changed in 11 years, so we need to learn the latest developments with regards to electrification and hybridisation and see where we can fit that into our new designs. That’s the biggest challenge.”

While it’s unclear what kind of electrification technologies Proton is pursuing, it likely has access to Geely’s hybrid and full electric powertrains. Not only does the X50‘s sibling, the Binyue, have a plug-in hybrid variant, but the company also sells several pure electric vehicles – both through its own brand and its Geometry spin-off.