Shock absorbers in the car have a very specific purpose – keeping the car stable, while providing comfort for the occupants. However, technologies are moving forward and shock absorber is not as simple as it used to be. Now a German car manufacturer Audi is introducing a new shock absorber system, which should provide even more comfort, while saving fuel.
There is no doubt that in the future cars will have to be able to consume as little energy as possible, regardless of where that energy is coming from. There are many ways of achieving that, one of them being recuperation of energy. Car wastes a lot of energy while breaking, accelerating suddenly and so on. Now Audi is starting to work on a way to harvest energy of the suspension. When wheels of the car are moving up and down they do not give any benefit for the car, except a more comfortable ride for the occupants. But what if this movement could be used to generate electricity?
Audi now is working on a shock absorber system prototype, called “eROT”, where conventional hydraulic absorbers are replaced with electromechanical rotary dampers. While usual shock absorbers simply waste the energy transferring it into heat, these new ones should use this energy, presented to the car by potholes and bumps, to make electricity, which later can be used to aid the engine. Furthermore, this system is easily adjustable, which will allow drivers precisely adjusting parameters of the suspension.
There are many advantages of the “eROT” system. For example, simple software changes could make the compression stroke soft, yet leaving rebound stroke normal. It would make a car considerably more comfortable. Furthermore, this system is oriented horizontally, which would leave more space for the luggage. However, the biggest reason why this system may be the shock absorbers of the future is that “eROT” uses compression and rebound strokes to make electricity. Wheel moves the lever arm, which is connected to the motor through a series of gears. On average German roads recuperation output is 100 to 150 watts, which would help saving about 3 g/km of CO2 emissions.
Electric part of the system is more complex. It uses 48-volt electrical system and a lithium-ion battery, which is capable of 0.5 kilowatt hours of energy and peak output of 13 kilowatts. DC converter connects 48-volt electrical system to the 12-volt primary electrical system. Initial testing showed that “eROT” system could be used in a production model Audi with a mild hybrid powertrain fairly soon and could help saving about 0.7 litters of fuel per 100 kilometres.
Car technologies are moving along extremely quickly. It is interesting to see what areas automakers still find worth improving. Now we can only wait and see how this shock absorber system will work in real world and what else Audi is going to come up with.