Dec 26, 2016 | By Benedict

Jeroen Claus and Fabian Brees, two concept car designers from Belgium, have imagined what a Tesla entry into the 2030 24 Hours of Le Mans race might look like. The futuristic vehicle design features 3D printed Michelin tires and an augmented reality windshield.

24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest sports car endurance race, has seen its fair share of radical automotive innovations, from Bugatti’s aerodynamically curved vehicles of the postwar era to Porsche’s experimentation with ethanol fuels in the early 1980s. In 2009, 86 years after the first race at Le Mans, that spirit of innovation was given new lifeblood, with regulations introduced that permitted the use of hybrid cars.

With electrical energy storage becoming more common on the Le Mans circuit, some racing fans have predicted that the race will be an entirely different spectacle just a few years down the line. Belgian designers Jeroen Claus and Fabian Brees are two such persons; they suggest that, by 2030, 24 Hours of Le Mans could be contested between all-electric cars, with charging strips on the road giving the cars ample juice as they hurtle round the iconic track. And who do they think could be at the forefront of such all-electric automotive innovations? Tesla, of course.

Tesla, Elon Musk’s world-famous automaker and energy storage company, has already found success with its Roadster and Model S electric cars, with the latter now the second-best-selling plug-in car of all time after the Nissan Leaf. However, the imaginative duo of Claus and Brees see the electric car giant achieving success not just on the consumer market, but also on the racing track. Could Le Mans 2030 be Tesla’s chance to shine? These Belgian designers appear to think so.

As part of the annual Michelin Design Challenge, a contest for aspiring designers, Claus and Brees have designed a Tesla vehicle that, according to the duo, could speed round the Le Mans track at over 280 miles per hour, thanks to a crazy charge-as-you-drive energy system, an augmented reality windshield, and—of course—3D printed Michelin tires. In fact, as part of their submission to the Michelin competition, the pair have even written up a witty “history” of endurance racing up until the year 2030.

Of the various aspects of Claus and Brees’ imagined Tesla, its unorthodox 3D printed wheels understandably piqued our interest the most. Their idea is actually a continuation of Michelin’s own “Tweel” (a portmanteau of “tire” and “wheel”), a concept first proposed in 2005 for a puncture-free tire and wheel hybrid that uses internal spokes instead of compressed air. TWEEL Sports, Claus and Brees’ imagined continuation of that concept, would be the third generation of the airless Michelin tire, specially designed for endurance racing.

“The ultralight tires are 3D printed and filled with a porous, sponge-like material,” the designers explain. “This three-dimensional nanomaterial is engineered so that it can cope with all forces a racing tire meets during a race. An added feature is the material’s ability to disperse heat from the in-wheel engine and brakes into the slick surface, or generate electricity from friction induced heat.”

Claus and Brees’ vision of the automotive future may seem farfetched to some—and indeed much of their submission appears slightly tongue-in-cheek—but one can never be certain what’s going on behind the scenes at a company like Tesla. Will it unveil a 280mph racing car with 3D printed Tweels for Le Mans 2030? Will the company even still exist? Will 3D printers still exist? We, along with Claus and Brees, can't wait to find out.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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