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Michelin's inflatable boat sails aim to decarbonize large ships

The Wing Sail Mobility project is pretty damn nifty, and it could improve a vessel's fuel efficiency by 20%.

Michelin inflatable sails
What a concept: using the wind at sea.

Michelin may be best known for tires, but it's thinking outside the box to help create sustainable mobility not just on the roads, but on the seas. On Monday, the company revealed its latest "Movin' On" sustainability projects, including the Wing Sail Mobility project.

At its core, WISAMO's solution is a set of inflatable boat sails to help decarbonize shipping tankers: Using wind power with the deployable sails can increase fuel efficiency by 20%, Michelin said, and reduce a giant vessel's CO2 emissions in turn. While the project targets tankers, though, the system also works on most merchant ships and some recreational craft.

Michelin worked with two Swiss inventors to pioneer the concept, which is not only meant for new ship builds; fleets can equip WISAMO's inflatable sails on old vessels. And the mast is telescopic, so big ol' boats can retract the sails as needed to enter harbors or pass under bridges.

The company said it will fit the system on a merchant ship for a trial phase in 2022.