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Regenerative shock absorber to bump up car energy capture capabilities

By

March 19, 2010

Diagram of the regenerative shock absorber and the cross section of the magnet assembly

Diagram of the regenerative shock absorber and the cross section of the magnet assembly

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According to a team of mechanical engineers from Stony Brook University, only 10-16 percent of the fuel energy is used to drive the car during everyday usage – that is, to overcome the resistance from road friction and air drag and actually transport the vehicle forward. That amounts to a lot of energy being wasted. Hybrid cars recapture some of the energy usually lost in braking but the dissipation of vibration energy by shock absorbers in the vehicle suspension remains an untapped source of potential energy. To harvest this lost energy the researchers have designed and tested a shock absorber that can be retrofitted to cars to convert the kinetic energy of suspension vibration between the wheel and sprung mass into useful electrical power.

Unlike the regenerative shock absorber system designed by MIT researchers that uses the up and down movement of the suspension to drive an external hydraulic motor the mechanical engineers built and tested a 1:2 scale prototype that relies on magnetic flux to generate power, much like the Etive concept we looked at last year, which uses kinetic energy to charge mobile devices.

In the new regenerative shock absorber, rare-earth permanent magnets and high permeable magnetic loops are used to harvest energy and could help increase fuel efficiency and help cut pollution.

Design

The device consists of two components - a hollow coil assembly and a magnet assembly that uses vibrational energy from the vehicle’s suspension to move up and down inside it.

The magnet assembly is made of ring-shaped permanent magnets and ring-shaped high magnetically permeable spacers stacked on a rod of high reluctance material. The magnets are arranged with like-poles of adjacent magnets facing each other to help push the magnetic flux outward. The magnetic assembly is encased in an outer cylinder made of high magnetically permeable material to further increase magnetic flux density in the coils.

The coil assembly is made of copper coils wound on a delrin tube. The coils were designed to align with the magnet stack and are connected to a rectifier set-up so, as the copper coils move inside the magnetic field, a voltage will be generated.

Testing

To test the prototype shock absorber’s voltage and power output on various road conditions the magnet assembly of the device was mounted in the mover of a vibration shaker, while to coil assembly was mounted to the top plate, which is fixed on the base of the vibration shaker. While simulating a range of road conditions an oscilloscope was used to measure the output voltage, both peak and RMS values, and also to view the output waveforms generated from the shock absorber. A multimeter was used to measure current output.

Results

The testing demonstrated that in typical driving conditions, traveling at a speed roughly equivalent to 45 mph (72.5 kph) the regenerative shock absorber was able to harvest 2-8 watts of power. The researchers told PhysOrg.com that they predict a full-scale system would be able to harvest approximately 64 watts per wheel. So with the regenerative shock absorbers put on all four wheels it should be possible to recover a total of around 256 watts under such driving conditions. Driving on rough surfaces such as a corrugated dirt track the system should be able to harvest considerably more.

Many hybrid vehicles harvest energy from braking to enhance the efficiency of the vehicle, but this is only intermittent. A system that captures energy through a vehicle’s suspension would be able to do so much more consistently resulting in greater fuel efficiency and reduced pollution. It might also means that cars will soon be swerving to hit potholes instead of avoid them.

The team is working to further improve the energy density and efficiency of the device. Their research appears in the paper, Design and characterization of an electromagnetic energy harvester for vehicle suspensions, which appears on IOP Science.

Via PhysOrg.com

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
11 Comments

Or, if they could only do it pneumatically, the engine would be supercharged far more efficiently elaborately. Why waste energy on such bulky and heavy electromagnetic contraptions that do less in regeneration? Or, maybe, they only make sense when they go all-electric and the suspension rods double as electromagnetic propeller shafts...

Julius Siador
20th March, 2010 @ 07:37 am PDT

Congratulations. Yet another energy-harvesting device which requires rare-earth metals. It surprises me that, knowing that there is a finite amount of the material on the planet, and also the mining process damages the planet, that scientists/engineers are not creating devices which actually try to move AWAY from rare-earth metals.

To add to it, over 90% of rare-earth metals supplied to the world by China (which might tighten and/or stop the export of these materials), so from a domestic manufacturing standpoint, should we not look forward to create devices that do not require such materials?

Just a thought.

Ike Rai
20th March, 2010 @ 08:05 am PDT

It is important that electric and hybrid vehicle manufacturers provide for these small inputs attempting to recharge the battery. Regenerative shock absorbers could be retrofitted to a vehicle to get greater distance per charge. Similarly photovoltaics could also be dealer-installed.

Unfortunately, only Mercedes Benz has admitted the most obvious truth here. Modern cars are very far from aerodynamically optimal. Indeed, the bottoms of most cars are washboards, the wheel wells are open wind-suckers and turbulence follows every car on the road. We need to mandate a coefficient of drag much lower than today's average. A belly pan to smooth the underside of the car, enclosed wheel wells to prevent wheel drag (worsened by larger wheel diameters as lower rolling resistance is cancelled by much high drag), and boat-tails on our cars would make them bigger, sleeker, and much more efficient. Congratulations to MB, the one forward thinking auto company.

TogetherinParis
20th March, 2010 @ 08:09 am PDT

congratulations, im have idea in discaver.net at lavitation trak tanke..

zuzamen
21st March, 2010 @ 03:00 am PDT

At last there is an advantage to the enormous number of pot-holes that exist in the roads of England! The amount of energy generated by this device would be almost enough to drive your car!

windykites1
22nd March, 2010 @ 08:33 am PDT

What wasn't said was how the potential output compares with the energy currently used by the average car. Seems to me most cars have a 100 amp approx. alternator. This would allow it to be half that size without loosing anything.

Ike Rai's comment on rare earths is false. There is no shortage, the name has nothing to do with their scarcity. The only reason most of them are mined in China is China priced them so low that the Rocky Mountain mines couldn't compete on price and so closed. But the needed minerals are still there in large quantities.

rdinning
22nd March, 2010 @ 09:12 am PDT

Looks like a dumbdown of this old Gizmag entry:

Bose Redefines Automobile Suspension Systems

http://www.gizmag.com/go/3259/

Dave B13
22nd March, 2010 @ 11:37 am PDT

Could be useful on an electric bicycle, perhaps.

Facebook User
23rd March, 2010 @ 02:32 am PDT

Electric Truck already has the patent to this type of device and is looking for funding to further refine it.

contact Woody Neeley

Nick Gencarelle
24th March, 2010 @ 09:28 am PDT

i have been suggesting this for almost thirty years never had the ability to develope

rhartford
31st March, 2010 @ 06:48 pm PDT

Interesting technology but unfortunately flawed. I suggest that only a very small portion of the energy is absorbed with this method and would expect more like a kilowatt to be harvested from each wheel!! There is another way......

KenB
17th August, 2010 @ 05:36 am PDT
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