BEIJING--French tire maker Michelin Group and a Chinese company have agreed to jointly develop electric power trains. If successful, the effort could vastly expand Michelin's role as an automotive supplier.
With little fanfare, Michelin and battery material supplier CITIC Guoan Mengguli., known as MGL, signed an agreement this year to develop electric power train systems for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, Qi Lu, general manager of MGL, told Automotive News China.
The system will integrate Michelin's active wheel technology with MGL's lithium ion batteries. The controllers used in the system will be jointly developed, Qi says.
The active wheel is Michelin's proprietary design for batteries and fuel cell-powered electric vehicles. It houses electric motors and suspensions inside the wheels. The battery pack and motors are linked by electric cables.
System ready by year end
Says Qi: "The electric power train system with Michelin's active wheels can be supplied to automakers in China by the year end." But he predicts future demand for the electric power train system will mainly come from overseas.
Qi also is a professor at Peking University in Beijing and head of the university's new energy material and technology laboratory.
MGL, of Beijing, is controlled by CITIC Guoan Group, a subsidiary of state-owned conglomerate China CITIC Group.
MGL was the exclusive battery supplier for 50 electric buses used in the Olympic villages during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in August.
Michelin and MGL have developed a pure electric car fitted with the system. The car is based on the Lifan 520, a small car produced by Chongqing Lifan Automobile Co.
The Lifan 520 electric car has a maximum speed of 87 mph. A full recharge takes four hours. The car can travel 62 miles to 81 miles with a full recharge, depending on capacity of the battery pack. The batteries can be recharged about 1,000 times, Qi says.
Qi says the batteries used in the car have passed relevant safety and quality tests carried out by China's Ministry of Science and Technology. But the Lifan car with the electric power train system has not been tested.
MGL has one battery factory in Beijing. Another one is under construction, supported by government loans, and will reach full-scale production in 2009, Qi says.
He says the new plant will be able to supply batteries to 18,000 electric cars a year.