The legendary tire manufacturer Michelin is using its inflatable muscles for a new endeavor: increasing the efficiency of cargo ships and limiting their greenhouse gas emissions.
The French company has unveiled a system of inflatable sails that can be added to existing freighters to turn them into environmentally friendly ships.
The sails extend automatically to take advantage of strong winds at sea and then retract just as quickly, making it a “plug and play” system, Michelin boasts.
This means that the crew members do not have to become experienced sailors to operate the hybrid ships.
Michelin claims the sails can improve a ship’s fuel efficiency by up to 20 percent.
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Michelin’s new Wing Sail Mobility system includes inflatable sails that can be attached to cargo ships and deployed quickly to take advantage of high winds
Michelin unveiled its Wing Sail Mobility (WISAMO) project at the global Movin’On Summit 2021 last week.
It is a system of inflatable wing sails that can be retrofitted on merchant ships – especially bulk carriers, roll-on / roll-off ships, and oil and gas tankers – as well as on yachts.
As a joint venture with a team of Swiss inventors, the sails would use wind power to complement, not replace, existing oil-powered engines.
“The advantage of wind propulsion is that wind energy is clean, free, universal and completely undisputed,” said world-famous skipper Michel Desjoyeaux, a WISAMO ambassador.
When not in use, the sails lay like an accordion on the ship’s deck
“It offers a very promising opportunity to improve the environmental impact of merchant ships.”
The “puffed” sails are automatically repositioned to maximize wind conditions, New Atlas reported, and when not in use the sails fold like an accordion on the ship’s deck.
“It has a plug and play system that is really easy to use – whether for an overhaul or a newly built ship,” said Desjoyeaux. “You lower the mast into the boat, plug it in and off you go. Once you are out of port, push a button and the machine will do it all. ‘
The “swollen” sails automatically reposition themselves to maximize wind conditions
The nature of the sails and their telescopic mast allow ships to easily cross bridges
This is crucial, Desjoyeaux adds, because the crews are quite small, “and they don’t necessarily know a lot about sailboats”.
The system’s double-sided design is an improvement over traditional flat sails, the company said, and its telescopic mast is retractable so ships can enter ports and easily pass under bridges.
Michelin claims the WISAMO system can improve a ship’s fuel efficiency by 10 to 20 percent.
It expects the 1,000-square-foot sails to be assembled on a merchant ship for the first time in 2022, after extensive testing on a Desjoyeaux-controlled sailboard.
According to a report by the United Nations International Maritime Organization from August 2020, around 90 percent of world trade depends on shipping.
Michelin claims the WISAMO system can improve a ship’s fuel efficiency by 10 to 20 percent
The report found that CO2 emissions from international shipping increased from 1.06 billion tons in 2012 to 1.16 billion in 2018 – which is nearly 3 percent of global atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The agency has set itself the goal of halving the industry’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
However, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, the growth of the shipping industry is outpacing efforts to contain emissions, and without major changes, emissions would be up to 130 percent higher in 2050 than in 2008, according to Reuters.
“Action is needed to accelerate innovative fuel-efficient technologies such as wind assist and hull air lubrication along with new low-emission and zero-emission fuels,” said Dan Rutherford, director of ICCT’s marine program.
Also at the Movin’On Summit, Michelin presented a racing tire that is almost half made of sustainable materials.
By increasing the tire’s natural rubber content and using recycled soot made from scrap tires – as well as everyday waste like orange peel, sunflower oil, pine resin, and recycled tin cans – he was able to improve the tire’s sustainability quotient to 46 percent.
Michelin is committed to using 100 percent sustainable materials in all of its tires by 2050.