The self-driving car of the future could draw energy from the lumps and bumps in the road, whist offering a more comfortable ride than current models, if this latest development from Audi is anything to go by!
The German car manufacturer have offered insight into a brand new suspension system which could change the way vehicles are made forever, and could make selling a car
much easier in the future!
Most cars currently use a coiled metal spring working alongside fluid-filled shock absorbers which control the vehicle’s body movement through bends and over bumps.
This set up usually takes up a fair amount of space, and the behaviour of the shock absorbers is governed by the size of valves that restrict the movement of fluid within each damper. Certain higher end models have magnetically controlled or variable-valve shocks which make for a smoother, more comfortable ride.
However, Audi are looking to upset the norm with a new electromechanical rotary damper, which has electric motors in place of springs and shocks.
The eROT system (short for electromechanical rotary damper) uses suspension arms and a series of gears which act as leverage on an electric motor. These serve as spring and dampers, finely controlling wheel movement.
This system is much more compact that current suspension setups, which gives designers more room for things such as cabin and boot space. The system also allows engineers more flexibility when it comes to tuning the suspension, by adjusting software that controls the behaviour of the electric motor.
However, the most significant development is that the motor harvests energy every time the car goes over a bump or pothole in the road, which stores kinetic energy in a way which could help power cats of the future!
Speaking of the technology, Stefan Knirsch, an Audi board member for technical development 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. With the new electromechanical damper system in the 48-volt electrical system, we put this energy to use.
"It also presents us and our customers with entirely new possibilities for adjusting the suspension."
The technology does not receive enough energy to power a car entirely on its own, but it could contribute to hybrid motors in future vehicles. It will also be interesting to see if the technology will be purely limited to autonomous cars, or whether we will be seeing it in manually driven cars.
Regardless, it will be a little while until the arrangement is see in a production car, as the technology is still under development.