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Published on May 11th, 2010 | by Jake Richardson

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Student-Invented, Electricity Generating Shock Absorbers Get Commercialized

Levant Power, a company out of Cambridge, MA, has commercialized technology that generates electricity from vehicle shock absorbers. Last we heard of these guys, their GenShock devices were in the wee prototype phase, barely a vision in their MIT student eyes. Their design uses the conventional piston shock absorber, but adds small internal parts within the cylinder that spin when they are pushed through the inner lubricant and generate an electric current.

The moving parts turn a small generator integrated into the shock absorber. The amount of electricity generated is not huge, but it’s an easy way to bump up fuel efficiency without require drastic changes. Initial tests have been conducted with military Humvees because in large vehicles the shock action is significant due to their weight, rough-riding capabilities, and speed. In fact, their technology works best with vehicles like Humvees and, as we indicated the last time we covered the company, they are targeting military applications.

It also is sensible that having onboard power generation could be a real advantage in military situations where troops are moving in remote areas without readily available fuel sources. Conserving fuel in those scenarios, especially during combat, could be the difference between life and death. There is some discussion taking place about the potential of adding their technology to the Humvee’s replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

What comes to mind quickly for non-military applications, is the commercial trucking industry. While they typically run trucks over roadways, their payloads of tens of thousands of pounds couple even with small, constant movements might generate a fair amount of electricity with shock absorber generators. The company says their technology when used with commercial trucks could pay for itself in 18 months due to fuel cost reduction.

Last year the MIT students calculated that Wal-Mart could save $13 million per year by using regenerative shock absorbers on their commercial fleet.

Could their technology be applied to motorcycles, and bicycles? There could be a market for charging a wireless device while riding a bike, or powering a stereo while motorcycling.

Source: Technology Review

Image Credit: Levant Power




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  • dustin S

    how about some for off-road racing trucks and 4x4s to power extra lighting, or tools. i could see it being useful in the baja 1000. A set of those shocks on my 4×4 off-roading truck would be awesome.

  • dustin S

    how about some for off-road racing trucks and 4x4s to power extra lighting, or tools. i could see it being useful in the baja 1000. A set of those shocks on my 4×4 off-roading truck would be awesome.

  • ChuckL

    Since they have incorporated a spinning generator, they should not run into paten problems with the Bose electric shock absorber or the electric suspension that used magnets and coils to regulate the height and the resistance of the wheel to motion. The components would be much simpler. You would just keep the internal magnet and fix the output wiring to a rectifier as is done with the inverter type generator sets for camping or home use.

  • ChuckL

    Since they have incorporated a spinning generator, they should not run into paten problems with the Bose electric shock absorber or the electric suspension that used magnets and coils to regulate the height and the resistance of the wheel to motion. The components would be much simpler. You would just keep the internal magnet and fix the output wiring to a rectifier as is done with the inverter type generator sets for camping or home use.

  • Chris O

    I think the biggest application is in electric vehicles – imagine a vehicle with solar roof panels, regenerating brakes and now regenerating shocks.

    As each technology improves, it could result in very little energy wasted. Maybe even the heat from movement or from the batteries could also generate more power.

    And what other movements could be capitalized on?

  • Chris O

    I think the biggest application is in electric vehicles – imagine a vehicle with solar roof panels, regenerating brakes and now regenerating shocks.

    As each technology improves, it could result in very little energy wasted. Maybe even the heat from movement or from the batteries could also generate more power.

    And what other movements could be capitalized on?

  • bob

    why doesn’t bose develop their device and market it to ev and hybrid vehicles? why limit battery charging to regenerative braking? every bump and pothole could be charging the batteries or driving electrical accessories and extending the range of the vehicle.

  • bob

    why doesn’t bose develop their device and market it to ev and hybrid vehicles? why limit battery charging to regenerative braking? every bump and pothole could be charging the batteries or driving electrical accessories and extending the range of the vehicle.

  • http://neilblanchard.vox.com/library/posts/ Neil Blanchard

    I agree that these should be used in any vehicle that uses electricity.

    I also propose that regenerative shock absorbers should be combined with rigid tires and wheels, that would improve efficiency is several ways:

    * Since inflated tires absorb about half of the bumps before they can move the suspension, using rigid tires and wheels would allow the regenerative shocks to make much more power. And they can be tuned to provide a comfortable ride, too.

    * Rigid tires/wheels would have significantly lower rolling resistance, which improves efficiency as well.

    * Lower maintenance and more consistent efficiency. Also, safety would be improved, since you cannot have a blowout, and you would never need to change a flat on the side of the road…

    Sincerely, Neil

  • http://neilblanchard.vox.com/library/posts/ Neil Blanchard

    I agree that these should be used in any vehicle that uses electricity.

    I also propose that regenerative shock absorbers should be combined with rigid tires and wheels, that would improve efficiency is several ways:

    * Since inflated tires absorb about half of the bumps before they can move the suspension, using rigid tires and wheels would allow the regenerative shocks to make much more power. And they can be tuned to provide a comfortable ride, too.

    * Rigid tires/wheels would have significantly lower rolling resistance, which improves efficiency as well.

    * Lower maintenance and more consistent efficiency. Also, safety would be improved, since you cannot have a blowout, and you would never need to change a flat on the side of the road…

    Sincerely, Neil

  • Colin

    Tire deflection dampens a lot of the roughness of the road. Suspension cannot react as quickly to small bumps due to its mass and friction in the suspension joints. A rigid tire would create a rough ride and more importantly it would hurt handling.

    That said, these shocks are a great idea, anything that creates heat is a good spot to look for energy recovery.

  • Colin

    Tire deflection dampens a lot of the roughness of the road. Suspension cannot react as quickly to small bumps due to its mass and friction in the suspension joints. A rigid tire would create a rough ride and more importantly it would hurt handling.

    That said, these shocks are a great idea, anything that creates heat is a good spot to look for energy recovery.

  • http://neilblanchard.vox.com/library/posts/ Neil Blanchard

    Hi Colin,

    The rigid tires and wheels could be a lot lighter than a conventional set up, and the Edison2 VLC also shows us how to make much lighter suspension. Even with the possibility that it would have issues to solve — I think the (huge) improvement in rolling resistance alone would be a boon to car efficiency, and if the regenerative shocks could generate 3-10% instead of 1.5-6% as they do now, that too would be huge.

    Sincerely, Neil

  • http://neilblanchard.vox.com/library/posts/ Neil Blanchard

    Hi Colin,

    The rigid tires and wheels could be a lot lighter than a conventional set up, and the Edison2 VLC also shows us how to make much lighter suspension. Even with the possibility that it would have issues to solve — I think the (huge) improvement in rolling resistance alone would be a boon to car efficiency, and if the regenerative shocks could generate 3-10% instead of 1.5-6% as they do now, that too would be huge.

    Sincerely, Neil

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