Bumps on road fuel cars

Published: Tuesday 31 March 2009

Shock absorbers help vehicles recharge from speedbreakers

NEXT time your car hits a bump on the road do not curse. Rather, use these shockers to increase the fuel efficiency of your vehicle by 10 per cent. A new shock absorber developed by a team of researchers can generate electricity to fuel your vehicle when it hits a bump.

In ordinary vehicles it is the suspension system that helps it absorb shock by braking at speed-breakers. Hence it is in the suspension that the researchers from the Massachusetts Univeristy of Technology, US, saw an opportunity.

The group used different car models, fitted the suspension with sensors and drove around. The tests showed a significant amount of energy wasted, specially in heavy vehicles.

The group then tried to find methods by which this wasted energy could be harnessed. They replaced the suspension system with a contraption consisting of a hydraulic system that forced the fluid through a turbine when the vehicle hit a bump. The turbine was connected to a generator that converted mechanical energy to electrical energy. The electrical energy was used by the vehicle thus saving energy. The system can operate in vehicles which are completely battery-driven or run on a combination of fuel and battery (hybrids).

According to the group's calculations, heavy vehicles could increase their fuel efficiency by 10 per cent with this new shock absorber. It works more efficiently over rough terrain than ordinary suspension systems. The group filed for a patent last year and formed a company called the Levant Power Corporation to develop and commercialize the product.

"We want the technology on heavy trucks, military vehicles and consumer hybrid vehicles," said Shakeel Avadhany, an engineering student in the team. Converting to this technology would save companies like the Walmart, which operates fleets, about US $13 million a year in fuel costs, the team calculated.

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