Here’s how Audi’s director of research and development, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, explained it to Auto Express:
‘What people don’t realize is that dampers get very hot. When working hard over a bumpy road, the dampers are perhaps 100 to 125 degrees. This energy is wasted as heat into the atmosphere. So, we will replace the suspension with a generator.’
Observers speculate that the car’s suspension components will be used to turn a small generator, but it is possible that the motion will be captured by turning the shocks and struts into linear alternators. However the electricity is produced, it will be stored in the car’s hybrid battery to help power auxiliary items like stereos, GPS systems, sunroofs, power windows and the like.
But Dr. Hackenberg let slip the intriguing idea that the extra juice could be sent back to the suspension pieces to power an active suspension system;
“Because we can send energy back into the damper, you will have an independently variable suspension. This can [counteract] roll [of the car’s body].”
Sounds a whole lot like a recent innovation by ZF called the GenShock, which harnesses the up-and-down motion of shock absorbers to power a small electric motor. It’s another example of harnessing energy from a variety sources, helping reduce engine load and thus improve fuel economy. Every little bit counts, and Audi seems to get that.