Thermoelectric technology retrieves energy from the vehicles hot surfaces such as the exhaust and Audi have developed new technology that recovers energy usually lost through a car’s suspension.
Still in the early prototype stages, the technology – known as eROT – utilises electromechanical rotary dampers that take the place of hydraulic dampers used in most suspension shock absorbers.
The diagram above illustrates how an arm from the wheel support connects to a gear unit which in turn transforms the compression and rebound (up and down) movements of the wheel into a spinning motion. That movement can then be turned into electricity by a generator. An earlier design featured a generator integrated with a shock absorber.
Audi R&D boss Stefan Knirsch said: “Every pothole, every bump, every curve induces kinetic energy in the car. Today’s dampers absorb this energy, which is lost in the form of heat…we put this energy to use.”
Therefore, the more uneven the road surface, the more electricity is produced. Audi have claimed the technology can produce up to 613 watts on especially bumpy roads. Batteries then store this recovered energy and use it to power the hybrid’s electric motor. If used on a conventional vehicle, the power is directed to the car’s accessories that use electricity thereby reducing the strain on an internal combustion engine and making the fuel economy usage more efficient. In this respect, it is comparable to Mazda’s i-ELOOP regenerative braking system.
Importantly, the technology also works in reverse. This allows the suspension to modify itself to bumps in the road surface. In essence, it would effectively be a new form of controllable adjustable suspension a massive benefit to upcoming performance vehicles.
Another plus point for the technology is that it renders the large shock absorbers unnecessary. Therefore it takes up much less space than current systems boosting the amount of storage space or allowing low, sleeker vehicles.
A release date for the regenerative suspension has yet to be announced by Audi, but with the auto maker primed to launch a whole new range of electric cars, we could well expect to see it in the imminent future.
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