Students at MIT, who announced their progress on this technology back in February to a lot of coverage, have succeeded in patenting a type of shock absorber that recaptures the kinetic energy of its operation (bouncing into a New England pothole, for example) and turning it into electrical energy. They call it the “GenShock.”
Most of the high-tech suspension technologies, like Bose’s Active Suspension and Delphi’s adjustable magnetic dampening shocks, use methods of changing the dampening rate and adjusting the ride for various conditions. For the GenShock, the shock absorber operates in much the same way, using sensors that adjust the amount of hydraulic fluid in the shock, offering a smoother ride. As the wheel moves up and down (for example, when it hits a bump), the up-and-down motion pumps the hydraulic fluid out of the shock and through a small generator. This generates electricity, enough to reduce the load on the alternator and increase fuel economy.
AM General, manufacturer of the HUMVEE for the US Military, is interested enough to have provided the MIT team with a test vehicle. The students also mentioned that large truck manufacturers are interested in the technology. Although the article doesn’t say so, it seems like the technology is best suited for large commercial and military vehicle applications. Maybe it’s heavy? Well, in any case, it’s an interesting technology and could help improve the efficiency of large vehicles.
PS – the students were undergrads!!! What did you patent in college?