For some time now hybrid and electric vehicles have utilized regenerative braking systems – harvesting electricity and topping off the battery during the braking process – but there are plenty of other moving systems within our cars that are ripe for transforming into power supplies. Shock absorbers are a great place to start, and that is exactly what German auto component giant ZF and US-based Levant Power Corp have recently presented. Their GenShock regenerative shock is the world’s first fully active suspension system with an energy recovery function.
An innovative functional unit, fitted to the outside of the ZF damper, forms the technological basis of the active, regenerative system. The valve technology has been developed specifically for this application. The very compact unit is composed of its own control unit, an electric motor and an electrohydraulic gear pump. Driven by an electronically controlled electric motor, the gear pump regulates the oil flow in the damper. “For dynamics, comfort and safety, it is essential that active forces can be applied into the chassis,” explained Rolf Heinz Rüger, head of the Suspension Technology business unit of ZF. For this reason, the damping characteristic curve not only adapts optimally and automatically to each driving situation, but bodywork pitch motions are also virtually eliminated during abrupt braking maneuvers and rolling motions.
As soon as the driving situation permits, the innovative valve system automatically uses the swaying motion of the damper piston to recover energy. Then, the system guides the oil in the damper in such a way that it drives the electric pump motor. This then functions like a generator; it converts the generated kinetic energy into electricity and feeds it into the vehicle power supply, thus contributing to a reduction in CO2 emissions. This effect is most powerful when the vehicle is traveling on poor quality country roads. Moreover, the technology is even capable of actively raising each individual wheel. This could theoretically lead to the death of the hated emergency car jack as the car could be manually lifted with its own shocks.
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