As part of its sustainable mobility strategy, Michelin recently unveiled new technology innovations at the recent Movin’ On global sustainability summit, including its Wing Sail Mobility (WISAMO) system. The project aims to increase efficiency among cargo ships using an inflatable sail that deploys to take advantage of available wind, quickly retracting on demand.
Developed as a joint project between Michelin R&D and two Swiss inventors, the wing sail system augments ship engines with a clean, free, readily available power source. The automated sail collapses like an accordion over top of the deck when not in use. At the push of a button, the sail inflates into a full, puffy airplane-like wing with help from an air compressor and a rising telescopic mast.
By transforming wind into forward momentum, the automated wing sail system is estimated to decrease overall vessel fuel consumption by up to 20%, thereby reducing CO2 emissions. The company claims that the dual-sided surface of the inflated sail improves performance over traditional flat sails, particularly when it comes to sailing upwind.
According to Michelin, the wing sail is able to hold up to stormy conditions, absorbing energy with its inflated body. Should the conditions prove too rough, it can retract quickly until the skies clear, something that’s also necessary when cruising under bridges and into harbors. The system is a plug-and-play design that can be retrofitted to existing vessels or integrated into new builds.
“The advantage of wind propulsion is that wind energy is clean, free, universal and totally non-controversial,” Michel Desjoyaux, world-renowned skipper and ambassador of the project, said in a statement. “It offers a very promising avenue to improving the environmental impact of merchant ships.”
Michelin will test a 100-sq-m (1,076-sq-ft) sail atop a merchant ship in 2022, which is when production is expected. The company intends for the wing sails to contribute to its long-term goal of cutting more than 50% of global maritime transport emissions by 2050.