MIT undergrads develop “regenerative” shock absorbers
A team of electrical engineering undergrads from MIT have developed a new type of “regenerative” shock absorber that captures energy every time a vehicle hits a bump in the road. They claim a 10 per cent improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency, and have formed a company called Levant Power Corp. to commercialize a product. According to an MIT press release, “In their testing so far, the students found that in a 6-shock heavy truck, each shock absorber could generate up to an average of 1 kilowatt on a standard road — enough power to completely displace the large alternator load in heavy trucks and military vehicles, and in some cases even run accessory devices such as hybrid trailer refrigeration units.”
This is just one of several components/parts of a car where energy-efficiency improvements are still possible, and taken together they show how far we can take vehicle efficiency. I can only imagine how much vehicle fuel economy would improve at this time of the year in Toronto, given all the potholes we’re starting to see after the winter thaw.
BTW: I know biofuels aren’t a factor in vehicle efficiency, but they are a factor in the debate over carbon emissions. One problem with ethanol, aside from the whole fuel-from-food controversy, is that vehicle fuel economy takes a 27-per-cent hit because of the lower energy content in ethanol. So to drive the same distance on ethanol as you would with 100 per cent gasoline you’d be using much more fuel, and presumably paying much more. A U.K.-based engineering company called Ricardo Inc. says it has developed a technology that, according to president Dean Harlow, “turns the gasoline-ethanol equation upside down.” The flex-fuel technology, called Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection, offers the performance of diesel, at the cost of a gasoline engine, but running on ethanol or an ethanol-gasoline blend. Now, if we could just get cellulosic ethanol to start flowing on a commercial scale…