Michelin reinvents the wheel, electric motors help to retire the combustion engine

December 01 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2016   Rating: 3

Instead of trying to End Oil, we should focus on Retiring the Combustion Engine!

Instead of pushing Automakers to incrementally improve miles per gallon, we should empower companies like General Motors and Michelin to transform how cars are built and make liquid fuels like oil irrelevant.


Let's start by reinventing the wheel.


What happened?

Michelin is now pushing its Active Wheel concept that can simplify how vehicles are built and reduce the manufacturing overhead for auto companies: 'no more engine under the front or rear, no more traditional suspension system, and no more gearbox or transmission shaft...all essential components have been integrated into the wheel itself'


Let's start by reinventing the wheel.

There are a few specialty engineering firms that have built high performance wheel based electric motors, but Michelin has the potential to bring ‘scaling’ to this disruptive technology.  The company has integrated the system into the new Venturi Volage which premieres at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.  There is also the new WILL built through a partnership involving Heuliez, Michelin and Orange.

Change the Wheel, Reinvent the Factory Floor
A New (more effective) Message: Greener cars = Leaner cars

Instead of a bulky mechanical engine in the front third of the car, put two or four electric motors inside the wheels.   If a factory wants to produce one hundred V4 (equivalent) chassis it takes motors from Corner A.  If it wants to build two hundred V6 (equivalent) electric chassis, it takes the motors from Corner B.  This allows companies to run fewer factories at higher capacity utilization by tapping the modular design of electric motors and energy storage devices.

Consumers are going to love wheel based electric motors because they transform the driving experience around instant torque and customized software that allows the same car to ride like a Ferrari or a Minivan with the click of a button.

Can we stop being obsessed with oil?

Most people are focused on the wrong problem - oil.

What is the real problem? The combustion engine.

The real opportunity is to simplify how vehicles are designed and built, not fueled.

How do you describe the 'car of the future'?  

Try General Motor's Autonomy concept.  Four wheel based electric motors, drive by wire braking and steering, front/rear end crash zone, with batteries, fuel cells and capacitors packaged in the center.  Skateboard

Take away the combustion engine, and you can start to talk about ‘alternatives’ to oil.  Until then, you cannot put solar and wind energy into liquid fueled combustion engines. Try to incrementally improve things with hybrids or legislating CAFE standards and you only extend the reign of liquid fuels (which oil will win handily).   

The auto industry needs to close down factories and produce multiple chassis from fewer factory floors.  Wheel based electric motors like Michelin's Active Wheel can enable this type of transformational change.

Our vision of the future?  Skateboard kills combustion engine!

Image Credit: Michelin

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