Michelin Active Wheel (Source: Michelin)
Active Wheel houses motor, brake, and suspension inside the wheel.
In 1895, Andre and Edouard Michelin, the founding brothers of the Michelin tire group, changed the automotive landscape by adding a tire to the car wheel. Before that, the wheel of a vehicle lacked a tire.
Michelin says that more than a century later it has reinvented the wheel again with a system it calls the Michelin Active Wheel. All essential components to an electric drive train are integrated into the wheel itself.
Inside the Active Wheel resides a brake rotor, brake caliper, suspension components, and the electric drive motor. The electric drive motor produces 30kW of continuous power and vehicles can have Active Wheel’s on both front wheels or on all four wheels of the car. Michelin says that these configuration options allow carmakers to continue making front wheel drive and all wheel drive vehicles.
The electric motors can be powered by any electrical source including lithium ion, fuel cells, or supercapacitors. Active Wheel powered vehicles are extremely quiet according to Michelin for the passengers inside the car and pedestrians.
The silence of the system could be an issue in the U.S. though with congress reportedly considering legislation to mandate minimum noise levels so electric vehicles are easier for pedestrians to spot. The suspension system used in the Active Wheel is electrically powered and offers a response rate of 3/1000ths of a second. Michelin says that pitching and rolling motion is automatically corrected.
Two vehicles debuted at the Paris Motor Show that use the Michelin Active Wheel. One of the vehicles is known as the Venturi Volage and uses four of the Active Wheels. The other vehicle is the WILL and uses two Active Wheels in a front drive configuration.
By moving all of the drive, braking, and suspension components into the wheels of the car, designers will have more room inside the car itself to add batteries and passenger space. These wheels could make it easier for designers to develop attractive electric vehicles that are smaller and offer higher performance.