Michelin to Commercialize Active Wheel; Technology to Appear in 2010 Cars

By Scott Doggett December 1, 2008

Michelin-Active-Wheel-1200x.jpg By Scott Doggett, Contributor

Michelin's revolutionary Active Wheel technology, featuring dual electric motors mounted inside wheels that not only drive the car but also control the suspension, will be implemented in  electric vehicles produced by French automaker Heuliez starting in 2010.

Michelin's Active Wheel technology.

So says the German Website Welt Online in a posting Sunday, attributing the information to Patrick Oliva, Michelin's director for sustainable development and future mobility. Michelin spokeswoman Lynne Slovick confirmed the gist of the report, but deferred details to officials at the company's French headquarters, who were not immediately available for comment.

This much we do know: Michelin has been working on Active Wheel for more than a decade, but the technology didn't really receive the attention it probably deserves until the 2008 Paris Auto Show held this past October. There, it appeared in the Heuliez Will Concept (pictured), as well as the Venturi Volage Concept.

Heuliez-Will.jpg The Will will be the first vehicle to enter production with Active Wheel drive. Sadly, it's platform will be nothing sexier than Opel's Agila, despite the fact Active Wheel frees designers from the restrictions posed by the need for engine, transmission, drive shaft, differential and exhaust systems.

At the heart of the zero-emissions technology is a 95-pound wheel packing a drive motor, an active shock-absorption system with its own dedicated motor, and disk braking. Although the Will could be fitted with four Active Wheels, its light weight (1980 pounds, including lithium-ion battery pack) requires only two.

Together, the two front wheels will be able to provide 82 horsepower. That's sufficient to reach 60 miles per hour from a standstill in 10 seconds. The car will have a top speed of 87 mph.

While the drive motor transmits power to the tire, the other (the "electrical suspension motor" in the diagram) controls torque distribution, traction, turning maneuvers, pitch, roll and suspension damping for each wheel independently. A standard brake disc fits between the motors.

Active Wheel is designed for battery-electric vehicles, and that's how Heuliez intends to offer them initially, but the technology could just as easily work in fuel-cell-electric vehicles. Michelin officials at the Paris Auto Show said the plug-in battery-electric version would likely have a drive range approaching 250 miles between charges.

The same officials said that should the Will enter production, its price should start around $27,500. They speculated the vehicles would be available to professional drivers, fleets and municipalities first and to the general public a year later.

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jederino says: 6:13 PM, 12.01.08

Too bad this technology couldn't be used on a new platform with a totally radical design. For $27,500, you should get a lot more novelty or utility!

brn says: 9:45 PM, 12.01.08

This might really happen in the relatively near future? Cool.

Changing a tire, after a blowout, has got to be a pain!

greenpony says: 1:54 PM, 12.02.08

jederino, it's cheaper to offer this on a current platform rather than an all-new purpose-built one. I take it as merely a demonstration of the technology.

brn says: 4:32 PM, 12.02.08

The stinky part is that Michelin is teaming up with a Chinese outfit to build these things. Not a good history there.


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