Auto Manifesto

March 1, 2009

Michelin Active Wheel Concept

The latest generation of this electric drive system was shown at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, and could potentially eliminate a host of components in automobiles such as transmissions, driveshafts, and differentials. At the same time it also offers the potential to provide faster dynamic response time for functions related to stability control.

If the unsprung proportion of vehicle mass can be reduced it could offer fantastic handling as well. Presuming the battering pack weighed more than the combined weight of the active wheel systems on the car, and the battery was mounted in-board (sprung) and low, the handling might be fairly good.

Modular, discrete component systems will reduce the complexity of integration, and help enable more extensive collaboration in the industry.

Two concept cars are known to be using system. One is a city car from a joint venture between Orange and Heuliez called the WILL. The other is the Venturi Volage.

The wheel motor is claimed to have 30 kW (40 hp) of continuous output. The entire unit is contained in the wheel (save for the power source) and encompasses propulsion, suspension, and braking. There is a second motor in the housing to control suspension movement. Braking is via a conventional disc brake in addition to the ability to perform regenerative braking.

This is a promising strategic move for the company as it can position itself to supply a greater portion of the manufacturing value that goes into a vehicle, and in a way that seems easily scalable. At the same time this technology is a lot less risky than those that battery and energy storage firms are having to invest in.

Take a look at the Venturi Volage and the Heuliez Will.

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