The 2010 Michelin Challenge Design revealed some exciting EV designs.
This year's Michelin Challenge Design, which celebrates the inventive spirit and creativity of those who strive to build a better automobile, was as topical as ever. It focused on the past, present and future of electric vehicles, just as almost every automaker — big or small — is starting to add some sort of battery-powered propulsion to its product lineup.
There were hundreds of submissions, ranging from small single-person vehicles to large transportation solutions for passengers or cargo. They were evaluated for uniqueness, emotional appeal, design courage and technical execution. The 34 best designs were then put on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Patrick Oliva, Michelin's global vice president for advanced research and sustainable development said that the development of electric cars allows designers greater freedom and flexibility in vehicle size, shape and packaging, and that he strongly believes the cars will continue to get better. "We have all the tools today to really change many of the paradigms upon which the automobile industry has been built," he said. "The automobiles of tomorrow will offer for all customers in all countries real advantages and real benefits. We can combine comfort, space and good control over energy consumption to enjoy the same benefits without using so much energy."
Three full-scale EVs were on display at the Cobo Center that represented the past, present and future of electric vehicles and highlighted the technology of each era. The future was represented by the exotic Venturi Volage. It incorporates Michelin's Active Wheel technology, which houses two electric motors in each wheel. One electric motor drives the vehicle while the second supplies electricity for the vehicle's active electric shock-absorber system.
The past was represented by La Jamais Contente, which means "the never satisfied" in French. The torpedo-shaped electric car was the first vehicle to travel at more than 100 km/h (62 mph), setting a land speed record on either April 29 or May 1, 1899, at Achères, Yvelines, near Paris. Made of partinium, an alloy of laminated aluminum, tungsten and magnesium (a substance that had never been used to build a car), La Jamais Contente was lightweight but very expensive.
Representing current electric-vehicle technology was the Nissan MIXIM EV, a sports car powered by lithium-ion batteries and two Super Motor electric moto/generator packs positioned to drive the front and rear axles. This small city car has a dramatic, swept-back, wrap-around windshield, similar to the visor of a racing helmet. The large scissor doors open into the roof for ease of access. And the driver's seat is in the middle, with two recessed passenger seats to each side and a fourth seat folded in the luggage area. It has a top speed of approximately 110 mph and a range of 155 miles. Using the quick-charging capability, it can be fully recharged in 20 to 40 minutes.