Michelin's Active Wheel technology has been 12 years in the making, and now there is finally a commercial application of the astonishing technology in a small city car named the 'Will'. The new car will be able to seat five passengers, and its electric drivetrain will offer a range of around 150km from its lithium-ion battery pack.

The Active Wheel integrates an electric motor, brakes and suspension functions inside the wheel itself. The car is now under testing in France and is being developed by contract manufacturer Heuliez.

The French company is best known for producing versions of Citroen and Peugeot cars – such as estate derivatives – where volumes are too low to justify full-scale production. Heuliez’s assembly plant in Cerizay, France, has the capacity to produce the Will and the company plans to build “several thousand” of them a year from 2010. It will feature two Active Wheels driving the front wheels, and two regular wheels at the back.

Active Wheel technology has been intensely anticipated due to the massive advantages it offers over traditional engines, as well as its ability to completely change the way cars look and operate. Since there is no need for a gearbox, clutch, transmission shaft, differential or shock absorbers, the technology also offers the possibility of a totally flat floor, maximizing interior space and under-car aerodynamics.

For an in-depth write-up about Michelin's new Active Wheel technology, follow this link. Heuliez isn’t the only carmaker pursuing the technology. At last year’s Paris Motor Show, French electric vehicle firm Venturi showed off a sports concept car fitted with four Active Wheels.