Michelin Wing Sail Mobility project makes massive cargo ships more efficient

Michelin is a name that's most often associated with tires of all sorts. The company has a project that has nothing to do with automotive tires that is called the Wing Sail Mobility (WISAMO) project that slots into the company's sustainable inflatability endeavors. WISAMO is a project that aims to increase the efficiency of massive cargo ships that carry products across the oceans. The project wants to increase the efficiency of cargo ships and reduce their emissions output by equipping them with two massive inflatable sails that deploy to take advantage of the winds at sea.

The giant inflatable sails can also be quickly retracted on demand. WISAMO was developed as a joint project between Michelin R&D and a pair of Swiss inventors. The system isn't intended to replace the massive engines that are the main power for the ship but to augment them with sails to harness the winds as ocean travelers have done for hundreds of years.

When the system isn't in use, the automated sails collapse like an accordion over the top of the deck. The ship's operators only need to press a button to inflate the sails into a massive airplane wing-like shape using an air compressor and a rising telescopic mast. The sails can be used singularly or in groups promising to decrease the vessel's fuel consumption by 10 to 20 percent.

Michelin says the dual-sided surface of the inflated sail improves performance over traditional flat sails, particularly when the ship is sailing upwind. The system might also be used with smaller private vessels rather than conventional sails. Automation is a significant characteristic of the system as merchant ships lack enough crew and the expertise to work traditional sails. The automated system can reposition the system optimally for any wind conditions. Michelin also says the system can hold up to stormy conditions while at sea.