There are more than 250 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads. From these vehicles, roughly 135 billion gallons of gasoline are consumed each year in the United States. In fact, 28 percent of energy used in the country is in the transportation sector.
While many may think that the majority of this consumption would come from planes or trains, personal cars and trucks actually consume 60 percent of all energy used here. Unfortunately, most of that energy is lost to heat and other inefficiencies within the vehicles, leaving only about 10 to 16 percent of a car’s fuel being used to actually drive and overcome road resistance.
However, the researchers at Virginia Tech may have a partial solution to this problem: harvesting energy from a car’s suspension.
Through some smart engineering, energy waste could be reduced and shock absorbers could provide between 100 and 400 watts of energy just from driving on your average road. The researchers believe that the bumpier the road, the better for energy creation.
This from Virginia Tech:
His energy-harvesting shock absorber works by translating the vertical vibrations of the suspension into rotational motion that turns a generator. The generator delivers electricity directly to the car’s battery or electrical devices, reducing the demand on the alternator.
While the shock absorber is still in its testing stages, it can already harvest about 60 percent of the available energy. The team believes that with a little tweaking, levels will be at 85 percent efficiency in the near future.
In order to make this device accessible to all vehicle owners, it can be easily installed on any car without changing the mechanics of the vehicle itself.
The team expects to have a better idea of cost performance in the next stages of testing.
There is constant innovation in automobile technology. Check out what our scientists are dong in biofuels, and hydrogen fuel cells!