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MIT Team Creates Shock That Recharges Your Car

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the power-up dept.

Transportation 281

An anonymous reader writes "If you had a GenShock, you may not mind those potholes in the road any longer because this new prototype shock actually harvests energy from bumps in the road to save on fuel. A team of students at MIT have invented a shock absorber that harnesses energy from small bumps in the road, generating electricity while it smooths the ride more effectively than conventional shocks. Senior Shakeel Avadhany and his teammates say they can produce up to a 10 percent improvement in overall vehicle fuel efficiency by using the regenerative shock absorbers. They also already have a lot of interest in their design, specifically the company that builds Humvees for the army are already planning to install them in its next version of the Humvee."

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Repair the roads or fuel our cars? (5, Funny)

feedayeen (1322473) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826057)

Looks like MIT just gave us a little picklet, will we repair our roads or use the potholes to power our cars?

Terrible News! Please read! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826085)

At 10:28pm EST Rob Malda was rushed to the emergency room and was found to have a microscopic penis. Yes, folks, Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, hero to many millions of slashdot nerds around the world, is hung like a 3 year old Asian boy.

Re:Terrible News! Please read! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826105)

Linux just isn't ready for the desktop yet. It may be ready for the web servers that you nerds use to distribute your TRON fanzines and personal Dungeons and Dragons web-sights across the world wide web, but the average computer user isn't going to spend months learning how to use a CLI and then hours compiling packages so that they can get a workable graphic interface to check their mail with, especially not when they already have a Windows machine that does its job perfectly well and is backed by a major corporation, as opposed to Linux which is only supported by a few unemployed nerds living in their mother's basement somewhere. The last thing I want is a level 5 dwarf (haha) providing me my OS.

You are kidding arent you? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826157)

Are you saying that this linux can run on a computer without windows underneath it, at all ? As in, without a boot disk, without any drivers, and without any services?

That sounds preposterous to me.

If it were true (and I doubt it), then companies would be selling computers without a windows. This clearly is not happening, so there must be some error in your calculations. I hope you realise that windows is more than just Office ? Its a whole system that runs the computer from start to finish, and that is a very difficult thing to acheive. A lot of people dont realise this.

Microsoft just spent $9 billion and many years to create Vista, so it does not sound reasonable that some new alternative could just snap into existence overnight like that. It would take billions of dollars and a massive effort to achieve. IBM tried, and spent a huge amount of money developing OS/2 but could never keep up with Windows. Apple tried to create their own system for years, but finally gave up recently and moved to Intel and Microsoft.

Its just not possible that a freeware like the Linux could be extended to the point where it runs the entire computer fron start to finish, without using some of the more critical parts of windows. Not possible.

I think you need to re-examine your assumptions.

Re:Repair the roads or fuel our cars? (5, Funny)

daniorerio (1070048) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826091)

I wonder if the 10% improvement in fuel efficiency only counts for roads in Boston, how about cities with decent roads?

Re:Repair the roads or fuel our cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826131)

You mean there are other cities than Boston? Oh, okay, how about Chicago then?

Shocking, simply shocking I tell you.

Re:Repair the roads or fuel our cars? (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826193)

No, I'm pretty sure they'd work in Detroit, too. Especially since I grew up there and drove on those roads for almost 35 years. Let me tell you: if this works half as well as they say in Boston, it'll probably cut your hybrid gas mileage in half.

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. But it makes a good glass of lemonade!

Now in the Tampa Bay area where I live now? Probably not so good. Every now and then I hit a pothole and I'm *shocked*.

The Stimulus bill is an Obamanation. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826449)

Show of hands: who's excited about losing autonomy for personal medical decisions and having your medical treatments routed through some narcoleptic government half-wit who could never cut it in the private sector for approval?

Re:Repair the roads or fuel our cars? (1)

txoof (553270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826585)

Don't let New Orleans hear about this! It will just give the city another reason to ignore the 6" wide pothole on my street.

Re:Repair the roads or fuel our cars? (2, Funny)

txoof (553270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826595)

Doh! 6' wide. Foot, not inch. Foot.

Re:Repair the roads or fuel our cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826929)

That's what... he said?

On my bed (5, Funny)

mrops (927562) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827049)

Wonder if I can have this on my bed.

Honey, I know you have a headache, but think of the planet.

You'd be surprised how much shocks move (5, Interesting)

DG (989) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827359)

I did a ton of shock development as part of my race car engineering job.

We had sensors on the suspension to directly measure suspension travel, with a view towards measuring suspension velocity as part of shock development.

Even on what feels like a perfectly smooth track, there's still a lot of humping and bumping going on.

See http://farnorthracing.com/autocross_secrets6.html [farnorthracing.com] for example graphs of suspension velocity pulled right off the car.

DG

pedestrians beware (4, Funny)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827361)

OTOH, if you're running low on fuel/power, just cruise up onto the sidewalk and mow down a few unsuspecting pedestrians. *KaThumpKaThump* *KaThumpKaThump* Presto! Enough juice to make it home (after a quick run through the carwash, of course). Thanks, MIT!!

Perpetuum mobile (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826059)

Is this actually legal since it hurts the oil industry ?

In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826087)

I hope you are being silly. The most efficient way to travel would be a perfectly smooth road, one that didn't suck energy out of the vehicle, in the form of a bump, in the first place.

To truly express the dilemma, you have to weigh the amount of energy used to maintain a smooth road versus the new found energy return from these shocks.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826125)

you have to weigh the amount of energy used to maintain a smooth road versus the new found energy return from these shocks.

The former is infinite, even if you were to strip the federal government back down to its constitutional powers so that it would HAVE to build and maintain the post roads in order to spend its money, it still wouldn't do it.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (4, Insightful)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826177)

Which is why this makes sense for off-road vehicles, such as military hummers.

But I agree that poor road maintenance is not just a suck on fuel efficiency, but results in increased costs on the upkeep of vehicles as a whole. (and it takes energy to make and ship those new sway-bar struts that I had to have replaced because of hitting too many bumps)

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (5, Informative)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826279)

I take it you don't live in a cold weather climate or in a large city. Snow/ice + salt + plows = pot holes. Large cities have notoriously bad roads, it's too hard to repair them with so much traffic.

And it's not just bumpy roads that shocks help with. Every time you turn a corner the shocks are used to keep the car stable.

Personally, I think it's a brilliant idea. The easiest way to become more efficient is to turn the wasted energy into something useful.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (3, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826813)

You do realize that this will only effect hybrid or electric cars right?

Here is some things to consider, in 2006 [bts.gov] there were a little over 135 million registered passenger cars in the US. Now that's not counting pickup trucks that had to be registered as commercial vehicles but are still used as personal vehicles. Since 2000, not more then 2.5-3 percent of new car registrations have been to hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles until 2007 which saw around 5%. This means that this can effect less then 10% of the passenger vehicles on the road and more likely that number is much lower.

The second thing is, if these shocks produce a gain of around 10% in energy recovered, then we can do some math on the economics of it. If a hybrid electric car gets 60 MPH, Some say on 40, and they travel an average of 1500 miles a month, then we can find how much 10% is worth. So 1500/60 and 1500/40 respectivly come out to 25 and 37.5 gallons of fuel. At $2.00 a gallon, that would be about $50 a month for the 60MPH and $75 a month for the 40MPG. A 10% savings of them would be $5 and $7.50 per month savings. Regular shocks wear out after about 5 years or so of driving, some last around 10 years before they are noticeably shot. So $5 * 12 months * 10 years means this device would only save about $600 and $900 over ten years. That's the price point they have to beat in order for there to be a savings. If they can't get the cost of this stuff under those dollar figures, then they are probably costing more then any savings.

My guess is that their effectiveness is going to go as the shock absorption abilities go and will only be effective for that typical 5 years then severely degrade after that like regular shocks and struts seem to do. The concept doesn't seem to be much different then a wave generator but applied to an existing gas or oil filled cylinder instead of hydraulic pistons connecting floats. This means that they will have to create a valve system and generator and a way to connect it to the cars power inputs. They might be able to do that for less then $6-900 every ten years. But I doubt it.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827169)

You and your facts and figures. Please don't let sumdumass talk to some dumb ass in Congress else this will never get gov't funding!

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827553)

You do realize that this will only effect hybrid or electric cars right?

Given the specific mention of military hummers, which are most certainly NOT hybrids or electic, it must have some benefit for non-hybrids.

Then again, how difficult would it be to replace the starter and alternator with a motor/generator capable of putting power to the drivetrain? Even if it's only a 5hp sustained, that'd be more than enough to take the 1kw each of the six shocks is capable of putting out(1hp=746W). Switch out the lead battery for a LiIon/NiMH of substantially more capacity. Increased cost, but probably actually lighter than traditional systems. For cold areas, there are LiIon that perform *as rated* at -40C. Not the 'put a bigger battery than you could possibly need in warm weather so you still have enough power to start when the oil is like jelly and the battery has 10% capacity left'.

You'd end up with a mild hybrid that can do stuff like shut off the engine at stops. Oh and stick the energy gained from the shocks back into moving the vehicle.

If they can't get the cost of this stuff under those dollar figures, then they are probably costing more then any savings.

The only problem I see with your figures is that they're explicity talking about trucks and other heavy vehicles. So you might want to redo your figures for 12-20 mpg ranges. Their test mule was a heavy truck with six shocks. Indeed, they also mention that it provides a better ride than traditional shocks, so there's a possible selling point there.
20 mpg/15,000 miles=750 gallons. Save 75 gallons a year(10%), that'd be $150@$2 gas, $300@$4 gas. Ten year timeframe? Could save them $3k, more if they've got a really heavy truck or are driving on particularly bumpy roads.

Then again, I've said numerous times that it makes more sense to make trucks and SUVs hybrid before you start making sub-compact hybrids. More fuel to save, more room to put the components, components end up being a lower percentage of the cost of the vehicle, etc...

I mean, look at the typical UPS/FEDEX panel van. Consider it's usage - stop and go traffic all day in the city for most of them. Right now they have a diesel engine that doesn't get turned off when they stop. How much fuel can be saved if you turn the truck into a hybrid? As a bonus, the heavy battery pack in the bottom of the vehicle would help mitigate the tipping hazards of a tall vehicle like that.

My guess is that their effectiveness is going to go as the shock absorption abilities go and will only be effective for that typical 5 years then severely degrade after that like regular shocks and struts seem to do.

Might last longer due to the nature of the energy absorbtion, but you're right. A lot of cost and durability issues need to be resolved.

In fact (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826907)

I am going to guess that in the future, these will use perm mags, rather than a small turbine. When that occurs, I think that we will see the upfront costs be a bit more, but they will last for several 100K of miles, rather than just a 100K miles.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26827481)

You need to try driving in the UK. All our major roads and most of our minor ones, including inner-city ones, are flawlessly flat.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826303)

Which is why this makes sense for off-road vehicles, such as military hummers.

Not exactly, military vehicles need to be robust and should be capable of being rapidly serviced. This applies to ground vehicles more than aircraft. The US military has lot of current equipment that is unnecessarily complicated or poorly modified (such as the up-armored HUMVEE).
However, I didn't RTA, so I don't know how complicated the system is.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (2, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826535)

I'll take the "poorly modified" up-armored vehicles over a canvas passenger compartment on my patrol of Baghdad any day. When we were in Iraq in 2004-5 my brigade lost a few soldiers, but at least as many and probably more were saved by vehicle armor as were lost. The armor provided some maintenance headaches for sure, but I'd rather (and the mechanics, would rather, especially since they ran in the same vehicles when they went outside) the mechanics have to work a bit harder than having the fatality rate double. Would it have been better if we have an existing light armored fighting vehicle deployed to all of our troops? Yeah. Was the solution a damn sight better than the problem it fixed? Ohh yeah.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (0, Offtopic)

El Torico (732160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826967)

True, the improvement is a lot better than a regular HUMVEE.
If there's anything I can send you while I'm here in CONUS, just e-mail me.
Stay safe.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

peater (1422239) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826609)

Well in my city, given the number of potholes, I could pretty much power up my car to hit the lunar surface in 6 seconds something I couldn't do on a smooth road. QED There. Fixed that for you.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826857)

I bet that's why Obama wants to build new roads. Perfectly smooth - no bumps.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

tecker (793737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826879)

Apparently you have never driven an interstate highway or local road in Kansas (or the Midwest in general). You would easily get some power just on a drive around town or to the next.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827635)

In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics

Apparently in your house you don't obey the laws of the 'real' world. Potholes and bumps happen. You simply can't avoid them occurring. Even more so, when you consider cold climates.

Would a perfectly smooth road be more 'efficient'? of course. Will it ever be like that for more than a year? not likely. millions of tons of load will cause wear and tear and material failures.

You will always have bumps in the road. Recouping some of the energy lost to that inefficiency makes them less inefficient. Comparing the cost of adding these shocks vs regular shocks to the gains in efficiency will determine whether its a feasible real world solution, but the concept is rock solid on it's principles.

Genious and bullshit (4, Insightful)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826107)

Recharging the batteries using movement of the shock absorbers is ingenious!

That they would smooth the ride more than conventional shock-absorbers is bullshit. You can get all kinds of traditional shock-absorbers. American ones for instance are typically softer than European which leads to poor handling and increased fuel consumptions. European ones are harder, and sports-models even harder yet, given the cars better handling at the expense of ride comfort.

If the new absorbers are smoother than traditional ones, it just means the car can't corner, and rides like a pimp car.

Re:Genious and bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826151)

Not necessarily! If you "teach" the absorbers to behave hard for curves and soft for bumps you can have both. and this is done since years in modern cars to some extent.
With bumpers that have active elements in the anyways you can control them even better i think.

Re:Genious and bullshit (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826185)

European ones are harder, and sports-models even harder yet, given the cars better handling at the expense of ride comfort.

The firmness of the ride is not the only story in ride comfort. I have a 1982 300SD, my last car was a 1983 Impreza LS with WRX wheels, before that a 1981 300SD. :) The 300SD is a hundred times more rigid up top. Meanwhile my pop used to have a 1991 (I think) Mercury Grand Marquis. Just as heavy as the 300SD and even bigger, but with a significantly inferior ride. Over the super-bumpy road I live on, the Mercedes is substantially more pleasant to drive than the Marquis, probably because it has a fully independent suspension.

With all that said, this technology could certainly smooth the ride more than the typical suspension because it has active damping control. But that doesn't exactly make it unique.

Shock absorbers are just a part of the equation (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826211)

Would not having smoother roads do more to benefit economy as well as reduce maintenance costs?

Besides you have to evaluate the whole of the suspension system to get an accurate measure of how well it rides and handles. Shocks used to be a bigger part of it ages ago, today they are just one component in many that determines how a car rides. If anything you can cause more issue by just having too much air pressure in the tires.

Re:Shock absorbers are just a part of the equation (5, Informative)

fprintf (82740) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826493)

Generally speaking you have more handling and fuel performance issues with having too *little* air in the tires. 27% of cars, according to the US DOT, have at least one underinflated tire.

http://www.dot.gov/affairs/nhtsa4601.htm [dot.gov]

So what's the problem? Well, as you say, you get a harsher ride from an overinflated tire, but you get far many more problems with underinflation, which is probably far more common. Some of those problems include poor braking, slow steering, poor handling/road grip, and worse fuel economy... worse than can be made up by funky new regenerative shocks.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/225/could-we-conserve-gasoline-by-putting-more-air-in-our-tires [straightdope.com]

I know lots of people made fun of Barack Obama during the Presidential campaign for his plea to check the tire pressures, but the reality is that drivers the world over could save millions of gallons of oil annually by simply keeping tires inflated properly. In cold climates this also means double checking the pressures when the outside temperature drops by 10 degrees.

Better to pump up the tires than not.

Re:Genious and bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826217)

It seems to me that if they were electric, the power they produce could be varied.

Which in turn would vary the shock absorber "stiffness" and probably be able to do it on the fly. The car's computer or the driver could then change them to suit conditions. That would be better than the "European way".

Likewise, the response could be tailored to the rate of change in the absorber too, so making a vehicle more efficient, a more cozy ride, AND corner better.

Re:Genious and bullshit (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826341)

Electronic suspension is already used in many modern cars. Many European, but cars everywhere is doing it now.

Re:Genious and bullshit (4, Insightful)

dwandy (907337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826223)

If the new absorbers are smoother than traditional ones, it just means the car can't corner, and rides like a pimp car.

"handling" and "softride" are not a zero-sum game. Suspension can be both better handling and softer than conventional systems.
being a good /.-er I did not rtfa, but I assume their suspension is active [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Genious and bullshit (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826523)

Sure it is not a zero-sum, but if it is active suspension it is softer by being active, not by being a hybrid-suspension. They could also be using decoupled suspension like everybody outside Detroit does, but that is still just another standard trick, and nothing new or special.

Btw. If I remember correctly, active suspension primarily improves comfort during cornering by eliminating body-roll. This makes the driver _feel_ turning is easier, but it doesn't improve the turning performance. No race-cars use this technology, only over-powered luxury cars do.

Re:Genious and bullshit (3, Informative)

KowShak (470768) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827015)

Some forms of active suspension mean your car can have suspension matched to the weight of the car and its loads, you can have suspension matched to an empty car when its empty and matched to a fully laden car when its loaded up instead of having a compromise setup thats matched to neither laden or unladen. How many times have you seen a car where the rear is low because of the load of the passengers or the trailer its towing?

Other forms of active suspension means you can have soft suspension when you're driving in a straight line and only have stiffer suspension when you are cornering, the result is that you can make your "cornering" rates higher performance without sacrificing your "straight line" comfort.

Other forms again allow the car to stiffen is anti roll bars and to corner flat.

Citroen has produced suspension systems that do all of the above on production cars, their first systems (on the DS and later cars) only self levelled, later their Hydractive system on the XM had "hard" and "soft" settings too eventually the Activa system on the Xantia added active anti roll bars too.

Formula One cars used active suspension, it could vary suspension rates, ride heights and anti-roll stiffness, it gave the cars that had it a competitive advantage over those that didn't but was eventually banned.

Re:Genious and bullshit (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826293)

So thats why Europeans are so snotty, their asses are so sore.
On a more serious note.
I think it is the size of the cars more then the suspension that really accounts for the difference in fuel. Sometimes things are different because of personal preferences, and one is not necessary better then the other. One could argue the extra comfort of driving will allow the driver to use the highway without stopping more often thus maximizing the efficiency of the car. Vs. A car with poor suspension where people will need to get out of the car every 50 miles to stretch their legs. Adding to fuel loss do to deceleration and acceleration.

Re:Genious and bullshit (0, Troll)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826407)

So thats why Europeans are so snotty, their asses are so sore.

So that's why American asses are so fat, they never take a proper beating!

Re:Genious and bullshit (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826371)

They might be smoother yet not softer. That is essentially the art of making suspension: anyone can make a car which gives a smooth ride but wallows round corners, or one which handles well but rattles your bones. Hydraulic shock absorbers are often thought to give a smoother ride than springs but with just as good handling: look at the hydropneumatic suspension traditionally used by Citroen (and licensed by some other manufacturers).

bullshit NOT - Bose Active Suspension Demo (1)

AJ Mexico (732501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826377)

That they would smooth the ride more than conventional shock-absorbers is bullshit.

Take a look at this demo [bose.com] and see if you still think it's bullshit.

That comment was moderated insightful?!

Re:bullshit NOT - Bose Active Suspension Demo (2, Informative)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826471)

Bose admitted to pre-tuning their magnetic suspension specifically for each demonstrated feat. Changing one without changing the other would destroy the so-called "advantage".

Also, the system is hideously expensive, impractical and performs poorly compared to conventional equipment. A bit like every single other crappy product Bose has ever made, really.

Re:bullshit NOT - Bose Active Suspension Demo (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827525)

I clicked on the demo link, but all I saw was a big blue Q with a question mark in it. I'm not sure how that proves that it is not bullshit. ;-)

Bill

Re:Genious and bullshit (1)

Heywood J. Blaume (858386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826853)

The part I think you're missing is that these dampers are actively computer controlled. Sure, you can tune suspensions to be firmer or softer. However, in a car with fixed damping, whichever way you go, you're stuck with it. One of the side benefits of this system is that they can change the effective damper valve rate on the fly to best handle the conditions, bumpy vs. smooth, straight ahead vs. turning.

Re:Genious and bullshit (1)

kayditty (641006) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827421)

and spelling genius as "genious" is in-genius.

In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826115)

...you may not mind those potholes in the road any longer...

You mean "as much." The GenShock isn't going to be 100% efficient and even if it was it can only harvest the energy that actually gets to it. Pot holes will still result in a net loss.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826235)

I'm not so sure about that. I mean I know on a theoretical level it should be that way, but in reality it's just not the case. I live in a place with good roads now, but I grew up in Detroit where one day I was driving down the pothole and *bam* there was the road! Anyway, I've had the exact same truck here and there and I haven't noticed any significant difference in gas mileage -- and I track it using my trip odometer. Maybe that's due to other factors (weather being one of them) but for all intents and purposes the mileage is the same.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826669)

Take it to its logical conclusion... the roads get worse and worse, until they're actually worse than going off-road altogether.
At some point, it has to become less efficient than driving on a smooth road.
And I think that point occurs as soon as the road stops being smooth...

Consider the energy lost (noise, heat, up/down motion) by travelling over a pothole. This energy is effectively* lost from your forward kinetic energy, and this is the only energy source that these shocks can access.
Even if they were 100% efficient in some conditions, they couldn't actually produce a better outcome than if the pothole wasn't there in the first place. Ergo, smooth roads are still better.

* Ok, so it comes from your gravitational potential energy you lose as you fall down into the hole... but then unless you come to a complete halt, you have to exchange your forward kinetic energy for more potential energy to climb back out again. And this process whole process will produce more heat than simply travelling along pothole-free road.

Sounds heavy to me (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826139)

Once the team found the wasted energy, they were focused on harnessing the loss energy. Their prototype shock absorbers use a hydraulic system that forces fluid through a turbine attached to a generator. The system is controlled by an active electronic system that optimizes the damping, providing a smoother ride than conventional shocks while generating electricity to recharge the batteries or operate electrical equipment.

In other words, this would be a useful retrofit for existing vehicles, but it will never happen; And instead of continuing to build lots of big heavy vehicles we need to be making smaller, more efficient vehicles which will not only lose less energy during damping due to reduced mass but also where the shock absorber generator system's additional weight will be a significant drawback. Finally, the incredible added complexity as compared to an ordinary shock damper means that such a system will have incredible cost and will substantially reduce the reliability of a vehicle.

In summary, I can see using this system on heavy trucks, buses and APCs. However, NONE of these (unless APCs are diesel-electric now, as they probably should be) can actually make use of that much electricity! They say they're getting up to 1kW per shock off a six-shock truck. That truck has an alternator that probably puts out 55A peak at 12V, most likely only 30A for long periods. That's only 660 watts! You can't even USE this much electricity without a hybrid vehicle. So this is only going to be useful for very heavy electric or hybrid vehicles. Who's going to make use of this again?

Re:Sounds heavy to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826201)

Capacitor?

Re:Sounds heavy to me (5, Interesting)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826521)

I wouldn't be surprised to see tractor-trailers going hybrid soon. Fuel economy is a HUGE factor for trucking, and they require large engines to maintain speed up large inclines. Additionally, all that weight is very hard to slow down on declines -producing a lot of wear on brakes and power-train (engine breaks). Trains already do it, trucks are next.

Re:Sounds heavy to me (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826685)

Trains already do it, trucks are next.

I'm actually not sure why they haven't done this already... Perhaps the cost of the motor/generator? Certainly it would actually reduce the parts count and could make the vehicle more reliable overall.

The only problem is that if you don't have batteries you have to use the power on-demand, and so far tests of battery-equipped hybrids of that size have been failures, although perhaps there's something I don't know about coming up in trucking. They haven't been able to make a power system useful for a locomotive yet. Perhaps the solution is to upgrade all the trucks (under the train cars, those kind of trucks) with driven/regenerating ones. On one hand having the engines in the engine car is positive. On the other hand, having it distributed might mean that they could actually use the power.

Re:Sounds heavy to me (2, Informative)

Tiber (613512) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826825)

(My father in law drove an 18 wheeler at one point).

So much of the 18 wheeler relies on moving air around pneumatically. The two basic forces in an 18 wheeler are positive pressure and vacuum. If you do away with the engine (or otherwise turn it off), you lose the boost/vacuum economy which makes those accessories work. While you could probably come up with some weird stopgap - they already use compressed air tanks as a backup - the retrofit to make it work with existing trailers would far outweigh the savings from a hybrid cab. Add to this that the truckers rent or own their own cabs as part of the business and there's little incentive for anyone to innovate or upgrade in a direction that would hurt their prospects for hauling.

Re:Sounds heavy to me (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827173)

Guess what? There's no vacuum in a turbo diesel; you can make some on the intake side of the turbo but you have to restrict the intake significantly, causing problems feeding the engine with air. But anyway we're not talking about having an electric 18-wheeler. We're talking about having a series hybrid tractor, which would eliminate the transmission in favor of a motor-generator pair just as they do with diesel locomotives today. The most logical engine to couple to it would probably still be a turbo diesel. Actually, I would vote for a turbine. Turbines make plenty of pressure and vacuum; if you've got a turbo diesel, just add a second turbine to make both pressure and vacuum.

But regardless, I'm not talking about retrofits, but new models. And there's plenty of fleet tractors to pioneer the technology.

Re:Sounds heavy to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26827255)

lol gay5 fag, no surprise you've got a redneck family.

Re:Sounds heavy to me (1)

DemiKnute (237008) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827347)

The reason they haven't done it is weight. Trucks are legally limited to 40 tons in most places in the US. All those batteries are heavy, which cuts down on the cargo you can haul, which cuts down on your pay, which cancels out the money you save on fuel.

Do expect to see hybrids popping up in local delivery trucks. Driving in the city with lots of starts and stops and usually at less than maximum load really helps the hybrid economics work out.

sure you could use it (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827375)

Air conditioning. That's normally a rather significant drag on engine performance and mileage, whereas if the power needed could be scavenged from what would normally be wasted energy lost in the shocks, it would be a net actual gain for the driver. No hybrid drive needed to use the extra juice. You'd probably need an additional battery or two though, so granted, more weight to lug, but with modern lithium styled batts it might not be too bad. The cost purchase ratio would have to be figured in of coursde, then quantifiably you'd have to determine what "comfort" is worth as well, that's a person to person variable. Additionally, I think it would be nice if once in awhile you could set your ride so the AC (or vent fans) would operate when the vehicle was parked, say as you went into a store or something, so the interior stayed cool and didn't re heat back up. Vehicle interior temps can skyrocket sitting out in a hot parking lot someplace.

And it is also a potential safety feature, as an adjunct to keeping the normal battery charged and to run the engine, say if the alternator goes out which happens at inopportune times, or if the belt slips or breaks, etc. Power redundancy is a spiffy idea really. I'd also like to see solar PV incorporated into vehicle roofs just on general principles, again, to add to the available electric supply. It wouldn't run the vehicle, but to keep the batteries full and hot, would help, especially when it is cold out and it is harder to start, and again, for parking and keeping the interior cooler during the summer.

Another use for additional electricity is for workers with pickups to be able to plug tools in at the jobsite. If they had onboard additional battery power, you could just use an inverter instead of cranking up the portable generator. Contractors and RV owners could make use of such tech easily. Now I don't have the electric shocks, but I *did* add a couple of solar panels and additional batteries to my RV, made all the diff in the world, didn't need to run the genny while parked. Lived in that thing for a few years and it was our primary electricity source, just those two panels, worked adequately (we had to learn to live with much reduced consumption though, but it worked)

energy from bumps vs. smooth road (1)

PalmHair (1222728) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826175)

I think it must be noted that riding on a smooth road will ALWAYS require less energy than rising on a bumpy one with energy harvesting.

Bad summary (3, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826199)

should s/shock/shock absorber/ so we know WTF you're talking about right away.

Re:Bad summary (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826537)

No, that's bad for ad revenue... (I agree with you, fwiw)

Compared to solar power... (3, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826269)

This is pretty good.

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 kW on a standard road.

The total insolation at the equator is about 1kW per square meter, so if your solar cells are 20% efficient that's the equivalent of 30 square meters of solar panels.

("up to an average", though... wtf does that actually mean? Oh well, your solar cells only get "up to an average" of 1kW too...)

Missing a unit (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826397)

Shocks generate that 1kW only at peak actuation, whereas solar is continuous. I would find it hard to believe that even a heavy truck would have the ability to generate a continuous 9HP (about 6kW) on shock alone, unless it were in some off road condition.

Re:Missing a unit (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826791)

Whereas solar is continuous.

You don't live in England!!!

Correction on the maths. You need 5 sq meters ! (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826445)

The total insulation at the equator is about 1kW per square meter, so if your solar cells are 20% efficient that's the equivalent of 30 square meters of solar panels.

I don't understand your maths. If they are 20% efficient, It's not 30 square meters but 5!

New correction ... it's per shock! (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826497)

Sorry my bad, didn't see you talked per shock and there are 6 shocks.

I already said that... (2, Interesting)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826309)

I've been saying for 5 years now that we should use all the available energy to power electric cars. Shock absorbers are one step, but combining it with solar cells, small wind generators deployed while coasting, regenerative braking, coupled with supercapacitors and a plug to recharge when necessary, that would be truly innovative.

I think that this is the way of the future, and MIT did one step.

Re:I already said that... (5, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826737)

I've been saying for 5 years now that we should use all the available energy to power electric cars.

I've been saying it for ten! Where the fuck have you been?

I think that this is the way of the future, and MIT did one step.

Now if they take one step back, and one step forward, and one step back... they're doing the cha-cha.

Re:I already said that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826775)

But what about the energy required to produce all these components?

Re:I already said that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26827195)

Or even more important, what about the cost?

You can't expect automakers to just shell out big bucks to make cars more green "just because it's the right thing to do". All of this green tech costs more money in engineering, parts and warranty.

Most hybrids already do regenerative braking.

Re:I already said that... (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826995)

small wind generators deployed while coasting, regenerative braking,

Small wind generators are a form of regenerative (air)breaking.

Re:I already said that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26827407)

I was also thinking small wind turbines where the front grill is. Don't know crap about electricity, but i figure you could supplement your battery charging pretty well when you are traveling 60mph. The small fans would be turning extremely fast.

For the first time in history. (4, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826393)

Cars are brought back to their parents on prom night with a full tank of gas.

Too Bad that Obama will fix the roads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826415)

Maybe leaving them in the bad state they are (really bad compared to what I'm used from Europe) could cut down the US oil bill.

But being serious, how can one possibly generate more energy from a bump in the road than one needs to get the car through/over it?

Danger! (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826429)

So we'll know when California is about to experience 'the big one' as the pre-shocks will overcharge the batteries and everyone will be diving for cover amidst assploding vehicles?

What about static electricity? (1)

I_Can't_Fly (1442225) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826443)

So reading this article raised a question in my mind about static electricity. We all hate getting shocked when we get in or out of our cars.

Why not try to harvest this energy by feeding the static electricity back into the batteries?

I recently bought a new Challenger SRT8 that has carbon fiber stripes, you know carbon fiber can conduct electricity, so on a hybrid car you could put the fiber stripes (maybe doped with something to even create better static electricity charges) in leading edges of the vehicle, and on the roof and hood, and trunk.

It may only produce a couple hundred volts or maybe if the carbon fiber stripes/patches were designed to produce more static charge.. even more,

What's a couple hundred volts here and there right? Well it can add up!

Re:What about static electricity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826563)

The problem is even if it creates a couple hundred volts between the car and you, the current is still so small as to be insignificant, and as such the power generated by such a setup would be useless for pretty much all practical purposes. Maybe you could power the clock? :-)

Re:What about static electricity? (1)

I_Can't_Fly (1442225) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826675)

I was alluding to : This [digitalworldtokyo.com]

They say the new carbon could conduct electricity like a metal. Heck, whadda I know.. :)

Re:What about static electricity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26827151)

What's a couple hundred volts here and there right? Well it can add up!

A couple of hundred volts can be anything from nothing to lethal, depending on the current. Just volt really doesn't say anything.

Forget potholes, get out on a gravel ... (1)

mikeraz (12065) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826447)

washboard road. That's where these shocks could generate some serious juice.

Or for fun test these shocks on the corduroy roads [wikipedia.org] this country had as an early form of paving.

Finally!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826451)

I can now justify the way I drive :)

Senior Shakeel Avadhany? (0, Flamebait)

new death barbie (240326) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826469)

Funny, that doesn't seem like a Mexican name...

Hummer (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826473)

That is one company that is BEGGING to be let go from GM. It is wasted there. I am not a real fan of hybrids, but it has its uses. It would be good in cross-country trucks and vehicles like the Hummer. This is the PERFECT place to put a serial hybrid. A hummer with electric drive, batteries for 5 miles and 2 small motor/generators would be a winning vehicle.

I still feel that the best way out for the car companies is to break them up for those that accept fed. money. Otherwise, you have the same idiots in place making the choice about what product lines lives or dies.

Re:Hummer (2, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826969)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Light_Tactical_Vehicle [wikipedia.org]

The next military truck might not even be from the company that makes the HMMWV. BTW, most of the JLTV entrants (if not all? It might be a program requirement...) are hybrids. The military wants increased fuel efficiency for logistical purposes.

Should also work the other way round (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826551)

So having a tete-a-tete in your car will refill it

In Other News... (1)

moofo (697416) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826559)

Several cars in Montreal Canada had their internal battery explode. Drivers said that they weren't able to avoid many potholes and overloaded their batteries.

City officials still maintain that they are on the tip of the tide, had this technology be invented ten years ago, no more electric dam would be required.

Slashdot RSS = MIT Press Release feed (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826593)

Slashdot continues spreading meaningless PR from MIT. Surely there are some engineering schools someplace else in the country, or even in other parts of the world. Do they do anything?

Let's do the math (2, Informative)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826605)

At first glance this sounds like a good idea, but let's do the math.

Assume you're driving over an evenly and heavily potholed road, such that all four wheels are rising and falling four inches four times a second. That's a very generous assumption. And assume a rather pudgy 400 pounds of unsprung weight. To move that stuff 1.33 feet per second takes 900 ft-lbs.sec of power, about 1.5 horsepower. But you don't want to absorb all that power or the whole point of a flexible suspension is lost. Let's guess we want a Q-factor of about 3, that is, we absorb 1/3 of the energy per cycle. We're down to 0.5 horsepower, and that is under optimally bumpy conditions. And small random jiggles are hard to capture as electricity. Overall it does not seem to be worth harvesting.

If one is going to be driving on such surfaces a lot, it makes a whole lot more sense to fit the vehicle with larger flotation-type tires. Those tend to flex and span potholes, so the car and passengers don't jiggle at all.

Energy generating roads (1)

French31 (1311051) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826653)

On the other end, we have energy generating roads [inhabitat.com] .

just a few more... (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826703)

braking regeneration, check

suspension regeneration, check

exhaust gas regeneration, check (in form of turbos)

need to get heat out of the exhaust system/cooling system and regenerate that... need some more weight efficient peltiers...

Stupeed wiz kids (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 5 years ago | (#26826717)

$@#%@$%@#$^@%&#%....Stupid....MIT....STOLE MY IDEA....now......I have to keep working for a living.......OH WHY DIDN'T I patent it when I thought of it!!!...KAAAAAAHN

Hydraulic system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26826861)

The linked article says "Their prototype shock absorbers use a hydraulic system that forces fluid through a turbine attached to a generator."

This sounds overly complicated and ineffective to me.
I would rather use linear motors. These are more effective, have close to no friction.
They could be controlled in a more direct manner to improve the smoothness of the ride by acting more "actively" in certain situations.
They could even improve lowrider hopping.

Terminology (1)

huge colin (528073) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827449)

They're called "dampers" or "shock dampers", not "shock absorbers". The springs on a vehicle are absorbing the shock, and the dampers have the job of damping the resulting oscillation of the sprung mass. In a way, the job the dampers do is almost opposite that of shock absorption.

hey I am rich (1)

crodrigu1 (819002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827501)

I live in mass (called by some masspothole) if I can recuperate the energy generated by potholes it means that I will have a surplus (almost 200% I will say) I am rich :)http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/12/0253204#

1st law of thermal dynamics says . . . (2, Insightful)

societyofrobots (1396043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827519)

"a shock absorber that harnesses energy from small bumps in the road"
It doesn't create energy, it only recovers a certain percentage that would have been lost otherwise.

As such, it'll only be practical on rough terrain, poor quality roads, or when you intentionally drive over potholes . . .

Parking (1, Redundant)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26827565)

So when I am parking with my girlfriend the car is charging up? Wow.

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