There's quite a bash going on down in Rio de Janeiro.

Every two years under the auspices of Michelin, the French tyremaker invites a global gathering of automakers and anyone with a vested interest in sustainability issues for its rather bizarrely named Challenge Bibendum and this time it's in Brazil's second city.

It's not just a talking shop though. Challenge Bibendum - essentially a sustainable mobility conference - also uses real-life driving conditions to test applications and to that end Michelin is showcasing its motorised active wheel technology on the Peugeot BB1 city EV.

"Challenge Bibendum brings together environmental actors and car makers to talk about congestion, urbanisation and how vehicles can contribute to durability," a Michelin spokeswoman told just-auto from Rio.

And it's no coincidence Michelin is in the teeming city. The manufacturer said it would invest US$1bn in Latin America by 2012 and its importance in the BRIC hierarchy is clearly of vital significance.

Michelin now has three factories in Brazil alone for new tyres and is highlighting its EV prototype brands in Rio this week that it claims will extend their autonomy by 10%.

This from Michelin Group director Michel Rollier in the presence of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva no less. "Brazil is confronted with immense mobility challenges, unbridled growth in road traffic [and] urban congestion," he said.

"Almost 80% of the Brazilian population lives in towns - it's possibly one of the highest rates of urbanisation in the world."

Michelin is clearly hoping to spread its influence in South America through Bidendum - which last time attracted 450 journalists, a staggering number - and as EV technology is the talk of the moment there'll be plenty of copy to use.

Rollier noted Michelin needs to "hurry up" in markets such as Latin America and Asia where additional capacity is needed. The vast event this week will give it an ideal showcase.

Michelin active wheel