According to Ulrich Hackenberg, head of research and development for the German brand, engineers have already managed to obtain electric power from the suspension system, during laboratory tests. The next step is the development of technical solutions which take full advantage of the way in which the suspension works to enrich a hybrid system that will lead to another level of fuel economy among models with partial or full hybrid system.
An Audi representative says that engineers are testing the possibility of using this system as a method of controlling the reaction of shock absorbers, providing adaptive suspension and at the same time saving fuel by eliminating the burden to the electrical system of the vehicle. For now, the Audi representative could not specify a date when we can expect this technology to be present on a production model.
The accurate technical solution of the system is still secret, the German manufacturer’s head of development presenting two completely different assumptions on how the system could work. One of these involves the use of shock absorbers heat emission in order to obtain electric power, because a shock absorber reaches the high temperature during operation of about 100 – 125 degrees.
Dr Hackenberg said “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.”
The other hypothesis presented is aimed at mounting a component to translate the vertical movement into a rotary motion and to feed a miniature generator.
This technology is very similar to a ZF recent innovation called GenShock that exploits the up-and-down movement of the dampers to power a small electric motor. This is another example of energy use from a variety of sources, helping to reduce load on the motor therefore improving fuel economy. Every little bit counts, and Audi seems to get this.
Dr. Hackenberg explained a bit how the system could be applied for more performance-orientated cars: “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].”
When Audi engineers develop a solution which makes it possible to recover the energy lost normally through heat, the efficiency of the models achieved by them may increase dramatically. Thus, there are many applications in the engine compartment that would be viable for a generator that converts heat into electricity.
This obtained electric power would be stored in batteries and could be used to either move the wheels or the car’s electrical systems, such as the stereo and climate control. Either way, this type of setup would make the car more fuel efficient.
Even without this technology, just the suspension power generation system would be sufficient to bring the Germans from Audi a significant technological advantage in the fight with rivals from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Infiniti.