After sleeping for a while, energy-producing shock absorbers appear in the news again. Levant Power, a company from Massachusetts, produces such shock absorbers that are developed by Cambridge. The company claims that their product can lower fuel consumption by 1.5 to 6 percent, depending on the vehicle and driving conditions.
Of course, the shock absorbers work best when used off-road, so they equipped a Humvee with them to prove their claims. Future plans include buses trucks, and other vehicles during the following months. You’d be surprised to hear that the electricity-harvesting shock absorbers can be mounted on your vehicle, too. They look just like classic ones, except for a power cord coming out of one end.
The system can join several other power-regenerating devices, such as regenerative brakes, thermoelectrics or solar panels through a power management device. All the power recovered this way is then fed into the car’s battery, reducing the load from the alternator, thus lowering consumption.
As in a conventional shock absorber, the Levant technology uses a piston moving through oil to damp down movement. But Levant has developed a modified piston head that includes parts that spin as it moves through the oil, turning a small generator housed within the shock absorber. To improve vehicle handling, the power controller uses information from accelerometers and other sensors to change the resistance from the generators, which stiffens or softens the suspension. For example, if the sensors detect the car starting a turn, the power controller can increase the resistance from the shock absorbers on the outer wheels, improving cornering, says David Diamond, the vice president of business development at Levant.
Diamond says that the regenerative shock absorbers work best on heavy vehicles, and that the extra control electronics will pay for themselves in around 18 months. Not planning to manufacture the technology itself, Levant wants to license it to other companies. Military applications are, of course, one of the best applications of these shock absorbers. In my opinion, hybrid or electric car manufacturers should be the first in the line to sign a contract with these guys.