French coachbuilder Heuliez, along with Michelin and Orange™, have brought with them to the 2008 Paris Motor Show a most unremarkable-looking car. (My apologies to fans of the Opel Agila) And that's the point. The WILL (pictured above) is meant to seem "familiar and friendly" even though its makers believe it is the embodiment of the future of automotive design. The technology that makes this claim plausible is the Michelin Active Wheel system which we previously saw on the Venturi Volage. It incorporates a motor, brakes and "a revolutionary electric suspension system" inside the wheels. Heuliez has constructed the WILL around the system which has allowed them to offer a lightweight 5-seater with two trunks that is built for safety and stability. With no engine under the hood, the front end is designed around absorbing impact. The active suspension in the two front wheels can quickly sense any pitch or roll and instantly adjust, which is said to offer "unprecedented levels of comfort and road holding."

Orange, the France Telecom brand, brings connectivity to the project. WILL has the usual navigation with real-time weather and traffic. It offers emergency call service as well as high-speed internet access to driver and passenger (no Googling while driving, please). It can also allow remote monitoring for theft protection and fleet tracking. The WILL should have three different lithium ion battery configurations offering 150, 300, or 400 Km of range. (That's 93, 186, or 249 miles). They also mention the possibility of a fuel cell. The first vehicles will begin testing this Autumn and should be available for professional drivers, fleets and municipalities in 2010. The general public may have to wait an extra year. The current price target is being reported as between €20,000 ($27,344) and €25,000 ($34,180). Check out the bonus video in French for glimpses of the WILL at the factory and read the press release after the jump.

[Source: Michelin / Avenir du Véhicule Electrique Méditerranéen (AVEM)]

Heuliez Will
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At the Paris Motor Show, Heuliez, Michelin and Orange will unveil WILL, the first electric vehicle to integrate Michelin's Active Wheel technology.
Underneath a familiar, friendly exterior, WILL represents a whole new way of looking at automobile design. Everything about this car-from the chassis, drivetrain and suspension to networked services and communication-shows that there are tangible solutions to the major transportation problems facing us today. These include finding alternatives to oil, reducing CO2 emissions and energy consumption, resolving urban congestion, eliminating noise and toxic emissions, and making travel time fun and productive.

Looking closer:

There's nothing under the hood, it's all in the wheels
Thanks to the Michelin Active Wheel system, WILL's drivetrain is in the wheels. Each front wheel comprises a motor, a revolutionary electric suspension system, a tire and brakes.

WILL is sized for the city but large enough for family vacations
WILL can seat five, even though, at 3.70 meters, it compares to a compact in size. The vehicle features two trunks, sufficient driving range for long trips (between 150 and 400 km depending on the modular energy source) and added space for communication equipment.

WILL consumes five times less energy in city driving and emits up to 20 times less CO2
WILL is a full-fledged car with an unbeatable energy performance. Its motors are 90% energy efficient, compared to 20% at best for a conventional vehicle engine in city driving. Heuliez has also completely revamped the chassis. The new underbody design makes the vehicle lighter, thereby reducing energy consumption. What's more, well-to-wheel CO2 emissions are less than 15 grams per kilometer when WILL runs on electricity generated by hydroelectric, photovoltaic, wind or other clean power sources.

Zero emissions, it's as simple as that A zero emissions vehicle that runs without noise: it's the city dweller's dream come true.

Light as a feather but as safe as a heavyweight The electric suspension system inside the Michelin Active Wheel controls the chassis' movements electrically, providing unprecedented stability and road holding. In addition, the space under the hood, freed of the engine, is entirely dedicated to absorbing impact. This little car is just as safe as the big models on the road.

Always connected to give you the information you need, when you need it WILL is the networked vehicle, with Orange's expertise giving passengers a wireless phone and high-speed browser on wheels. Other networked services include optimized navigation that leverages road traffic data in real time, and access to assistance and maintenance, with the possibility of remote support.

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