The Hydraulic Based Regenerative Suspension System
The forerunner of the hydraulic based regenerative suspension system was developed by a team of undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They came up with a damper that could exploit the kinetic energy that resulted from the uneven surfaces of roads by converting this kinetic energy into electricity. The damper was also able to perform the damping function more efficiently than conventional dampers due its state of the art control management system.
The hydraulic based regenerative suspension system, although still in the developmental stages, has drawn considerable interest from several truck manufacturers and the U.S. military. The prototype damper uses a hydraulic system to force a fluid to propel a turbine that is coupled to a generator. With an active electronic management system, the regenerative suspension system was optimized to produce a smoother ride than a normal shock absorber, whilst at the same time generating electricity that could be utilized to recharge the batteries, or to operate the vehicle’s electrical accessories.
According to the development team, the hydraulic based regenerative suspension system was able to produce an overall 10% improvement in fuel efficiency. Based on tests conducted by the development team, each PGSA in a 6 shock heavy truck travelling on a typical road could produce an average of 1 kilowatt of electricity, which is enough to take the load of the alternator in heavy trucks. In certain instances, the electricity generated is even sufficient to power a hybrid trailer refrigeration system. It was estimated that if Wal-Mart converted their entire fleet to this system, it would save the company as much as $13 million per year in fuel costs. The dual function shock absorber also incorporated a fail safe system. If for any reasons the regenerative ability of the shock absorber failed, the system is still able to function like a conventional shock absorber.
To further develop and commercialize this technology, the development team has incorporated a company called “Levant Power”. A patent was filed recently to cover for this invention. In addition, the development team is also receiving assistances from MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service and is advised by the Kyocera Professor of Ceramics, Yet-Ming Chiang who is also the founder of a lithium-ion battery supplier Company called “A123 System”.
Interested in reading more about syspension systems? Check out more relevant content here.