Before Michelin began wrapping halos of rubber around the wheels of our cars, the hoops were made completely from wood -- horse and buggy style. That's what we call a serious innovation, and the French tire maker has got plenty of ideas to keep it at the forefront of rolling technology. The latest bit of high-tech kit revolving out of Michelin's design department is known as the Active Wheel system. Two motors, one to propel the car and another for the integrated suspension system, sit inside the hub and allow the entire drivetrain to fit neatly enclosed at each corner.
This innovative design would potentially allow for an amazingly diverse set of platforms that could be engineered to accept the same set of shoes. Depending on the size of the actual Active Wheels used, the technology could be applied to virtually any type of car. With so much going on in just the rolling-stock, it should come as no surprise that Michelin is looking for partners to help offload some of the rest of the car's design and has just signed an agreement with CITIC Guoan Mengguli Corp. in China. Important bits like the lithium-ion battery development will be carried out in China where test-mules equipped with lithium-powered Active Wheels are already running around city streets.
Gallery: Venturi Volage
[Sources: Michelin, Automotive News - sub. req'd]
Michelin reinvents the wheel
In 2008, Michelin has reinvented the wheel, enabling the unveiling of two cars at the Paris Motor Show that usher in a totally new era.
In 1895, André and Edouard Michelin, the brothers who founded the Group that bears their name, transformed the car wheel by adding a tyre for the first time. Their innovation endures to this day.
More than a century later, Michelin wants its latest innovation to enjoy the same success as its illustrious predecessor in 1895.
In 2008, the transformation is truly revolutionary-no more engine under the front or rear bonnet, no more traditional suspension system, and no more gearbox or transmission shaft thanks to the Michelin Active Wheel. That's because all essential components have been integrated into the wheel itself. Cars equipped with this integrated solution deliver an array of unique advantages. In a sense, the Michelin Active Wheel is an intelligent wheel capable of propelling cars without gasoline, while ensuring suspension and braking functions and providing unrivalled road handling and comfort.
The Michelin Active Wheel inaugurates a new era in road transportation in which a car's road, safety, energy and environmental performance achieve unprecedented levels. This is because of a miniature drive engine and an electrical suspension system incorporated into the wheel. These technologies developed by Michelin have made it possible to completely rethink the car.
The most advanced illustration of this achievement is the new Venturi Volage, which is being unveiled in a world premiere at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. Fitted with the Michelin Active Wheel, the car is a roadster that is well ahead of its time. And with good reason... With its innovative design that is free of all constraints (like the need to house an engine) and its electrical drive motor, the Venturi Volage delivers outstanding road performance, safety and comfort-all in an environmentally friendly vehicle.
The second vehicle-the new WILL-is built through a partnership involving Heuliez, Michelin and Orange. The world's first example of an EV capable of holding its own against traditional cars, this small-size vehicle can be adapted for use as both a passenger car and a utility vehicle. The WILL provides a practical solution to road transportation concerns in the areas of energy resources, urban pollution and personal safety.