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Michelin simplifies the car

Michelin shows off its Active wheel technology, which integrates electric motors and suspension equipment.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham

Michelin Active wheel
The wheel integrates an electric motor. CNET

Michelin Active wheel
This wheel has a motor and suspension components. CNET

If new Michelin technology takes off, our cars could get very simple while wheels get more complex. Michelin showed two versions of its Active wheel at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show, one with an integrated electric motor and the other with motor and suspension equipment. Tire maker and restaurant critic Michelin has been developing lightweight automotive motors, achieving an efficiency of 4 kilowatts per kilogram. The motor in its Active wheel produces 30 kilowatts of continuous power, and up to 60 kilowatts of peak power. Two of those wheels on a car would add up to the equivalent of 80 horsepower. Four and its up to 160 horsepower. The motors also contribute braking power. The integrated suspension technology is active, and can respond intelligently to body roll and pitch, with 145 millimeters of travel.

A car equipped with these wheels could do away with its own drivetrain and suspension equipment, and would merely need steering gear and batteries. Of course, the price of custom wheels would increase drastically.