Swingarm-mounted fenders already pull double duty, serving as rear mudguard and license plate holder, but tire manufacturer has an idea for a third use: as an auxiliary drive system.
Michelin has filed patents for an electric drive motor that can be housed within a tire-hugging rear fender that could assist in low-speed maneuvering – including in reverse.
The idea is pretty simple. Michelin’s patent proposes a roller (#12 in the diagrams) hidden in the fender and powered by a small electric motor. At the flip of a handlebar-mounted remote switch, the assembly tilts slightly to press the roller against the rear tire. The motor spins the roller, which then uses friction to rotate the rear tire either forwards or backwards.
The patent describes the motor as a 3.6V DC motor capable of supplying about 2 to 4 Nm of torque (1.5 to 3 lb-ft.), which Michelin claims would be enough to crawl a motorcycle at speeds of 1 kph (0.6 mph). That might not sound like much, but it isn’t supposed to.
What it would do is help make it easier to walk a motorcycle in or out of tight spots such as in a parking lot or near a fuel pump. The patent also suggests it may help with climbing ramps, such as for loading a motorcycle onto a truck. The motor’s low power level would also prevent any excessive tire wear, something Michelin would definitely be conscious of.
The patent describes the motor being powered by a rechargeable 3.6V, 2Ah lithium-ion battery pack that would also be mounted in the fender (#14 in the diagrams).
One benefit of this design is that it is entirely self-contained and can be mounted to most conventional swingarms. This would help Michelin market it as an easy-to-install accessory kit that would fit a variety of motorcycles.
If combination rear fender and license plate holders aren’t your style, Michelin’s patent also proposes an alternate design, applying the idea to a mudguard that would fit in front of the tire.
The patent also mentions how it could also be applied to a motorcycle’s front wheel, with the parts mounted to the fork, but it recognizes that a rear wheel setup would be simpler and would deal with less vibration than a front wheel.
As in most cases, having a patent doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see a finished product. What it does tell us is that some engineers at Michelin are thinking outside the box, and that the company is working on more than just tires.
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