If you had a GenShock, you may not mind those potholes in the road any longer because this new prototype shock actually harvests energy from bumps in the road to save on fuel. A team of students at MIT have invented a shock absorber that harnesses energy from small bumps in the road, generating electricity while it smooths the ride more effectively than conventional shocks. Senior Shakeel Avadhany and his teammates say they can produce up to a 10 percent improvement in overall vehicle fuel efficiency by using the regenerative shock absorbers. They also already have a lot of interest in their design, specifically the company that builds Humvees for the army are already planning to install them in its next version of the Humvee.
The project came about because “we wanted to figure out where energy is being wasted in a vehicle,” senior Zack Anderson explains. Some hybrid cars already do a good job of recovering the energy from braking, so the team looked elsewhere, and quickly homed in on the suspension. They began by renting a variety of different car models, outfitting the suspension with sensors to determine the energy potential, and driving around with a laptop computer recording the sensor data. Their tests showed “a significant amount of energy” was being wasted in conventional suspension systems, Anderson says, “especially for heavy vehicles.”
Once the team found the wasted energy, they were focused on harnessing the loss energy. Their prototype shock absorbers use a hydraulic system that forces fluid through a turbine attached to a generator. The system is controlled by an active electronic system that optimizes the damping, providing a smoother ride than conventional shocks while generating electricity to recharge the batteries or operate electrical equipment.
In their testing so far, the students found that in a 6-shock heavy truck, each shock absorber could generate up to an average of 1 kW on a standard road.
The team plans to have a fine-tuned version ready for testing this summer and then they will begin seeking large customers for the product.
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