Audi A3 e-tronEnlarge Photo
Regenerative braking is a common feature in hybrids and electric cars, but brake force isn't the only energy engineers can harvest while a car is moving. We've already written about thermoelectric technology, which recovers energy from hot surfaces such as those of the exhaust, and now we have news that Audi is looking to recover energy normally lost through a vehicle's suspension.
Audi is reportedly developing a regenerative suspension system that could reclaim energy in a similar way to regenerative braking, providing an extra boost of electricity from the up-and-down motion of the shock absorbers. At a recent press event, Audi R&D chief Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg told Auto Express that the German automaker is working on such a system. Hackenberg noted that shocks can become quite hot, especially on a bumpy road. This heat normally dissipates into the atmosphere as wasted energy, but the Audi system would collect it with an attached generator.
Any recovered energy would be stored in batteries and used to power a hybrid's electric motor, or to power electrical accessories in a conventional car. This would lessen the workload of an internal combustion engine, improving fuel economy in a way similar to Mazda's i-ELOOP regenerative braking system.
The system could also work both ways, sending power back into the suspension to firm things up for a sportier feel. It would essentially be a new type of adjustable suspension, and a potential boon to future performance cars.
Audi did not confirm when the regenerative suspension system would make its public debut, but with the company poised to launch a slew of plug-in hybrids, don't be surprised to see it at an auto show in the near future.