Speed humps and notoriously bumpy country roads could soon help power your car.
German drivetrain and components experts ZF – which supplies some of the world's biggest car makers, including Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW - has teamed with US-based electronics group Levant Power Corp to develop shock absorbers (or dampers) that can capture energy and transform it into electricity for use in a hybrid or electric system.
The GenShock system is a "fully active, regenerative" suspension design which can capture kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost largely as heat as a car's suspension goes about its business of isolating the occupants in the cabin from lumps and bumps.
The system uses active dampers like those seen in sportier luxury cars, which can adjust the suspension depending on the terrain.
A valve within the shock absorber is mated to a small electric generator, which can recoup energy and transform it into electricity.
The company says "the effect is most powerful when the vehicle is travelling on poor quality country roads".
It's not clear how much energy the suspension could potentially recover, nor how much the system could potentially reduce fuel use. However, regenerative braking systems - like those seen in the Toyota Prius and other hybrid cars - can capture about 30 per cent of the energy that would otherwise be lost as heat during braking, helping reduce fuel use by up to 50 per cent in some applications.
ZF says it wants to make the new system "ready for volume production and introduce it to the market".
The company already supplies some of the world's biggest car companies, including the Volkswagen Group (including Audi and Porsche), Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Rolls-Royce and Maserati. All those manufacturers are either currently producing or working on electric and/or hybrid applications.
It may seem like an outside-the-box type of fuel-saving technology, but the ZF GenShock system is the latest in a long line of initiatives from the automotive industry in the face of stricter emissions regulations.
Audi, for example, is testing a traffic-light reading technology that will help drivers time their run to avoid sitting at a red light.
Most sat-nav systems now offer advice on the most economical route that a driver can take, based on historical evidence and real-time traffic information.
There's even a new Rolls-Royce that has a gearbox that is controlled via satellite which aims to reduce fuel use and increase driver-friendliness.
-Fairfax News Australia