Electric vehicles and hybrids can utilize energy-recapturing technologies that boost range and efficiency unlike conventional cars. The most common form of this is the regenerative braking, using the electric motor rather than brakes to recapture energy. Auto parts maker ZF, in conjunction with Levant Power Corp., is adding a new concept to the equation; an energy-recapturing suspension.
The concept is similar to other ideas like energy-recapturing speed bumps, employ active dampers and new valve technology to regulate an eletrohydraulic pump that powers a small electric motor. During driving, when the car sways and bounces, the kinetic energy can be recaptured and converted into electricity. The rougher the road, the more power generated.
But that’s not the only advantage of this new suspension system. The GenShock suspension can provide luxury car comfort with sports car-like handling, and can even individually raise a wheel to allow drivers to change a tire, no jack needed. Talk about 21st-century technology.
This simple concept is likely to solve the world’s energy woes, but it could one day become an integral part of a new generation of hybrid and electric vehicles. ZF’s Continuous Damping Control suspension was launched in 1994, and has been produced for some 14 million vehicles so far. Eventually the inherent advantages of electric vehicles and hybrids utilizing this new kind of technology could give electric vehicles a range that even diesel cars can’t match, along with fast-charging and battery-swapping options to get EVs back on the road even faster.
It’ll be awhile before we start to see this technology go mainstream. But automakers will eventually need to employ all sorts of new technologies to hit the lofty fuel economy and emissions goals set by many nations.