A group of undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have successfully created a new shock absorber that is able to generate electricity from small bumps in the road while also making the vehicle drive smoother on the road.
The idea behind the project started when the students were interested in trying to figure out "where energy is being wasted in a vehicle," said one of the seniors involved in the study. They discovered some hybrid car models are able to proficiently recover energy from braking, and eventually decided they needed to focus specifically on the suspension.
"A significant amount of energy" was wasted after students rented a group of different rental cars and outfitted the suspensions of each car with specialized sensors to monitor energy potential.
The regenerative shock absorbers are able to offer up to a 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency than standard shock absorbers used in most cars today. The new shocks have a tiny turbine powered by a generator, so each time a shock is compressed or extended, hydraulic fluid must pass by the turbine. An active electronic system controls the hydraulics and the car has a smoother ride while also generating electricity.
During testing of a 6-shock truck, they found each shock absorber is able to generate up to an average of 1 kW on a road, which is "enough power to completely displace the large alternator load in heavy trucks and military vehicles."
If for some reason the electronics on the shocks fail, the fail-safe feature will have the shocks act simply like a normal shock absorber.
A patent is pending, and the students created Levant Power Corp., a company so they are able to fully develop and commercialize their product. They now plan to perfect the technology on a converted Humvee in an effort to secure a lucrative government contract for a new U.S. Army vehicle that is currently in development.
The group plans to have a final product ready this summer, when they'll start contacting companies to persuade them to upgrade their shock systems. As an example, if Wal-Mart were to convert its fleet of trucks with these new shocks, the company could save $13 million per year in total fuel costs.
quote: Anything that can use the energy normally dissipated as heat for some useful purpose has to be a good thing
quote: The regenerative shock absorbers are able to offer up to a 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency than standard shock absorbers used in most cars today. The new shocks have a tiny turbine powered by a generator, so each time a shock is compressed or extended, hydraulic fluid must pass by the turbine. An active electronic system controls the hydraulics and the car has a smoother ride while also generating electricity.
quote: The new shocks have a tiny turbine powered by a generator
quote: I've wondered why hybrids don't use generators that take advantage of the motion of the wheels to generate electricity instead of just the brakes. If a standard car has one alternator that's running on a belt from the engine, why not put an alternator on each wheel, or at each point where a similar motion (spinning) occurs? Wouldn't that generate more electricity? Wouldn't that electricity help a hybrid run on batteries longer?
quote: In the engine You want as much of the cumbustion energy as possible, to be transferred to the weels, so tapping energy would cost energy; more fuel.
quote: Now on the other hand if you could capture some of the heat radiating from the engine block or the cars radiator and convert it to a usable amount of energy that would be a different story. That is lost energy that has essentially escaped the engine /drivetrain system at the point of capture.
quote: But again; your words, not mine.