Tire manufacturing giant Michelin is partnering with China's CITIC Guon Mengguli Corporation (MGL) to develop a new-generation electric powertrain systems based on its Active Wheel technology. The first commercial applications of Active Wheel are expected to be in production in China early next year, and if successful could spread to Western markets by 2010.

The Active Wheel is essentially a standard wheel that houses a pair of electric motors. One of the motors spins the wheel and transmits power to the ground, while the other acts as an active suspension system to improve comfort, handling and stability. The system is designed for battery or fuel-cell powered electric vehicles, and the technology is such that a vehicle equipped with it will no longer need any gearbox, clutch, transmission shaft, universal joint or anti-roll bar.

The partnership between the French tire manufacturer and the Chinese company will see Michelin's Active Wheel paired with batteries produced by MGL, while the two will work together to develop a control system, reports Automotive News.

The partnership has already yielded a basic electric vehicle that utilizes the technology. The Active Wheel electric car built by the two companies is based on a Lifan 520, a model from the same company that brought us this Mini Cooper clone at the start of the year. Currently the Active Wheel electric car is untested, but proves that the technology can work.

The batteries fitted in that car only have a lifespan of around 62,000 - 81,000 miles before they need replacing due to their ability to be charged a maximum of around 1,000 times. The car itself has a range of around 70 miles and can hit almost 90mph when pushed.

During October’s Paris Motor Show Michelin unveiled the latest generation of its innovative design in the new Volage electric roadster concept from Monaco’s Venturi, which you can read about in our previous story by clicking here.