So far, modern battery technology is enough to power cars, pickup trucks, semi-trailers, and smaller watercraft. Still, engineers face problems when they scale up to even bigger machines. For example, it is currently not possible to go fully electric with something the size of container ships. Michelin, however, presents an ambitious project called the Wing Sail Mobility (WISAMO) that would improve the fuel economy of larger vessels.

Electrification appears to be the best solution in our efforts to reduce pollution. Thus, Michelin’s should be the more feasible solution as of now. Until we can harness a cleaner energy source to power these massive freighters, it’s crucial that we try all available alternatives.

The WISAMO is not only meant for commercial use, but also for leisure. Just like in the old day, these harnesses the wind to minimize the use of engines during travel. Michelin says the system is compatible with existing ships or can be installed while the vessel is being built.

It uses a telescopic mast to raise and lower the sails while an integrated air compressor inflates them. Michelin is collaborating with Michel Desjoyaux for this exciting endeavor. He says “the advantage of wind propulsion is that wind energy is clean, free, universal and totally non-controversial. It offers a very promising avenue to improving the environmental impact of merchant ships.”

As regulations regarding maritime transport change in the future, the WISAMO might pave the way for even more advancements. Perhaps, ships in the future will be using a combination of solar and wind power thereby abandoning fossil fuels entirely. Michelin shows us that it can make more than just tires.

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Images courtesy of Michelin