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Published on January 31st, 2011 | by Seán Ward

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Michelin ‘Reinvents the Wheel’

Michelin have created a new wheel that incorporates the tyre, suspension system, braking system and motor into one unit.

Unveiled at the “Challenge Bibendum” in Rio de Janeiro, an event that focuses on environmentally friendly transport, the new wheel is set to be the most groundbreaking invention in wheel technology since the dawn of the wheel itself.

The device was fitted to – and demonstrated on – Peugeot’s BB1 four-seater city car and to the WILL, a city car developed by French manufacturer Heuliez.

Michelin says that the Active Wheel incorporates electric motors to drive a vehicle, enabling manufacturers to produce either two-, or four wheel-drive cars.

The wheel also incorporates an electrical suspension system claimed to react to bumps and potholes in the road in just 3/1000ths of a second.

Vehicles powered by the Active Wheel will have no need for a gearbox, clutch, transmission shaft, differential or shock absorbers, says Michelin, enabling a vast reduction in the weight and bulk of a car. However, some conventional motorists may not see this as a good development, despite the reductions in weight and, therefore, the fuel economy.

“The key to the Active Wheel’s technological revolution lies in reducing the size of the engine and controlling the suspension system,” said Peter Snelling, Michelin’s Head of Communications.

“These elements, in addition to the braking system and the tyre, are now integrated within the wheel. The result offers an unprecedented series of advantages for motorists equipped with this system.”

Added Mr Snelling: “Safety is also improved. The quality of the electric suspension in the wheel improves active safety. A digital board controls chassis stability and vehicle road handling.

“The absence of a motor under the bonnet means that the entire front of the vehicle can be dedicated to absorbing shocks, enhancing passive safety.” The car the system is fitted on to will also have no restrictions with regarding looks because without an engine, the designers can use new shapes for car fronts.

Michelin is unfortunately unable at present to say when the Active Wheel will appear on a production car. Even if the technology is readily available and technically fine tuned, this technology is unlikely to become widespread much before 2025.

First published on June 9th 2010 at www.motoringpress.wordpress.com.


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