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Shocks turn a jolt into a volt

M.I.T. students develop a new kind of shock absorber that generates electricity.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham

MIT shock absorber
This shock forces hydraulic fluid through a turbine to generate electricity. M.I.T.

Every time your car hits a bump in the road, it could be generating electricity. That is, if it were equipped with a new type of shock absorber designed by a group of M.I.T. undergraduates. Whenever this shock absorber prototype gets compressed, it pushes its hydraulic fluid through a turbine, generating electricity. The shock absorber also has a control unit that delivers a smoother ride than conventional shock absorbers, according to the M.I.T. group.

The students came across the idea for the shock absorber after looking at areas where cars waste energy. As regenerative braking is an idea already in use, the students noticed the energy being absorbed by the shocks, and devised a means to capture it. Heavy vehicles generate the most energy at the shocks, and the students have found they can generate one kilowatt per shock from a six-shock heavy truck traveling on a typical paved road.

AM General has shown an interest in the shock-absorber technology for use in the military HMMWV, or Humvee, it is developing. These shocks could also be used on hybrid vehicles to help keep the batteries charged.