Renault is currently trying to develop and test a new propulsion method for EVs.  The focus of the new system is to provide additional luggage and interior space in EVs.  They have partnered with Michelin to cooperatively achieve the goal of freeing up additional storage space on board electric vehicles.  Michelin's Active Wheel technology may provide the solution that Renault is looking for.

The system incorporates in wheel motors to power the EV down the road.  Prototypes have been shown several times before, but now with the assistance of Renault and a production vehicle, Michelin's system will see its first real world use in demonstration Renault Kangoos.

The Kangoos will use an internal combustion engine to power the motors located on the front wheels, but it only serves to demonstrate the functionality of the system.  Later versions would use batteries to drive the front wheel mounted electric motors.

The Renault Kangoo EV expected to be released in 2011 will use electric motors that power the front axles, but the company will consider the in wheel motors if demonstration vehicles prove successful. 

The benefit of in wheel motors is freed up space in the engine compartment area.  EV powered by in wheel motors will not need motors located in the engine bay area, nor will they need engines.  Potentially, additional storage space would be revealed.

The system is undergoing testing to determine how the additional unsprung mass will affect the handling and acceleration of a vehicle.  Seven Will EVs using this system will be built later this year.

Before the system can see widespread, it must be thoroughly tested for durability and compatibility with vehicles.  Both Michelin and Renault believe that the system looks promising and plan to invest additional funding into the program.

Source:  Wards Auto (login required)