Harnessing electrical power from bumps, thumps and jolts that pass through a car’s suspension may seem an obvious idea, yet only now is one company beginning to experiment with such technology.
The system, known as GenShock, is being developed by Levant Power in partnership with ZF Friedrichshafen AG, the talented bunch behind the buttery smooth ZF 9, 8 and 7-speed gearboxes found in car such as the Land Rover Evoque.
The system works in a similar fashion to regenerative braking, a technology found in electric and hybrid vehicles, which turn kinetic energy into electricity that can be fed back into a battery.
As the shock absorber compresses in a corner, when riding over a pothole or during acceleration and braking, an clever valve system uses the energy from the fluid movement in the damper to drive an electric pump motor, creating a sort of generator.
The kinetic power is then turned into electricity and fed back to the alternator, reducing the amount of energy the car’s main electric motor needs to produce to run the car, therefore increasing fuel efficiency while reducing CO2 emissions.
Estimates suggest fuel mileage on paved roads could be improved by 2 to 5 per cent.It’s not yet clear how much GenShock could improve fuel efficiency (estimates suggest fuel mileage on paved roads could be improved by 2 to 5 per cent for commercial trucks) or whether the initial expense will outweigh the initial cost. Given the number of miles a car has to travel in its lifetime, even a 1 per cent saving per year could prove tempting.
Besides potentially reducing your fuel bills, the active suspension system will be able to actively raise each wheel individually, so it could be possible to change a tyre without using a jack.
Shakeel Avadhany, Zack Anderson, Zack Jackowski, Ryan Bavetta and Vladimir Tarasov first started designing the GenShock system when they were MIT graduates. Instead of going the MIT licensing route, the clever team decided to found Levant Power and go it alone.
While the road-going application is probably a long way off, a partnership with ZF signifies the product will be coming to market in the future. Exactly when and for how much remains to be seen.
Obviously the bumpier the road, the better. So the next time you complain about Britain’s crumbling roads, perhaps you should be thankful your future car could reap the rewards.