Why ads?
Popular at
  • Class of 2016: New Cars Ready to Roll
  • Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide
  • Midsize Sedan Buyer's Guide
  • Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

Innovative Damper Design Converts Motion into Electricity

By on February 12, 2009 3:50 PM
Share this article

A group of student researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has come up with a new take on the shock absorber that effectively converts kinetic energy from normal vertical motion into usable electric power. The MIT teams says the regenerative capabilities of this new device -- patented as the GenShock -- can provide up to a 10-percent improvement in fuel economy by tapping into force that normally goes to waste as heat.

The team's ultimate goal is to create a system that can deliver enough electricity to eliminate the need for an alternator on conventional applications. The most obvious of these would include any kind of large truck fleets and/or military vehicles. Initial test results on an AM General-donated Humvee test mule indicate that goal is very reachable. Each of the GenShocks in its six-damper array has the capability to generate an average of up to 1 kilowatt of electricity when being driven on a "standard" road. While less-massive passenger cars wouldn't be able to fully match that level of on-the-fly generation, the MIT group does see some potential for a GenShock-based system in future hybrid and plug-in vehicles.

The GenShock functions by using a damper's basic compression/extension motions to force hydraulic fluid through a turbine attached to an electrical generator unit that can then feed the power it creates back to the battery or any other system. This process is controlled by a computer that's programmed to help smooth the overall ride quality to a degree not possible with normal shock absorbers. It effectively creates the ultimate win-win situation, as the quicker a vehicle can traverse demanding terrain; the more potential it has to make power. The GenShock also incorporates a fail-safe circuit that lets it operate like a regular shock absorber should it ever suffer any kind of electronic glitch.

With help from MIT's highly-regarded Venture Monitoring Service, the GenShock team has established the Levant Power Corp. to oversee the final development and commercialization process. That fine-tuning work should be completed by this summer, when they plan to begin soliciting potential GenShock customers from both the private and government sectors.

Photo courtesy of MIT

Share this article