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Michelin (Yes, That Michelin) Just Unveiled Giant Inflatable Sails That Increase a Ship’s Fuel Efficiency by 20%

The setup promises to improve a ship's fuel efficiency by 20 percent.

Forget tires and guides, Michelin is now apparently developing ship sails to help save the environment.

The French multinational announced a number of new projects at its Movin’ On summit last week to promote “sustainable mobility” not only on the roads but also on the high seas. A standout was the Wing Sail Mobility project (WISAMO), which aims to decarbonize maritime shipping via an innovative new sail system.

In essence, the WISAMO is a set of inflatable wing sails that can be fitted to both large freighters or your very own pleasure craft to reduce its carbon footprint. The 1,076-square-foot sail takes cues from aircraft wings and harnesses the power of the wind to increase fuel efficiency by 20 percent, according to Michelin. As a result, the vessel uses less fuel and emits fewer CO2 emissions.

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“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 Wisamo Wing Sail

The WISAMO Wing Sail can be fitted to large freighters or your very own pleasure craft.  Michelin Group

The tire titan worked with two Swiss inventors to pen the design, which features an integrated air compressor that inflates the sails. The setup can be integrated into a new build or retrofitted to an existing in-service vessel. It’s especially suited to oil and gas tankers, ro-ro ships or bulk carriers.

Michelin says the nifty new system can be used on every maritime shipping route and also features a retractable telescopic mast to ensure the bigger boats can enter harbors and pass under bridges without issue. It’s also fully automated and can adjust itself to catch the most amount of wind or retract should conditions become too stormy. The company says it will test the sails on a merchant ship in 2022 before heading into full-scale production.

In addition to the WISAMO system, Michelin teased a new tire “with a very high percentage of sustainable materials” that will be fully unveiled at an upcoming conference. The company also announced its commitment to using 100 percent sustainable materials in all its tires by 2050.

Check out more photos of the wing sail below:

Michelin Wisamo Wing Sail

Michelin Group

Michelin Wisamo Wing Sail

Michelin Group

Michelin Wisamo Wing Sail

Michelin Group

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