Over the years I have written articles about different types of suspension and how it has evolved with hydro-pneumatic systems creating a smoother, more luxurious rides for limousines and high end saloons. A new type of suspension is currently under test: electro-hydro-pneumatic.
ClearMotion, a US company that was spawned from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston, had a great idea and then reversed it to produce a new product. They had jumped on the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) bandwagon where if something moved, you could generate electricity from it. Initially they developed a unit that was attached to a standard shock absorber but used the fluid to drive a power generator. As the fluid in the shock absorber was compressed, it was pushed into the unit that turned a rotor, thus as the absorber moved up and down, the rotor turned generating an electric charge.
One of the boffins flipped the flow – now the generator became an electric motor pushing the fluid into the shock absorber based on information provided by the vehicle’s sensors. This meant that the fluid was provided just at the right time to provide a much smoother ride. Now the technology is ready for the market and is called ActiValve. By minimising the size of the unit, ClearMotion has provided a unit that requires very little modification to the car for fitment and could easily be designed into new ones.
The other idea they have relates to my article about General Motors becoming a data supplier – ClearMotion want to get and share data between vehicles so that a car can use onboard communications systems to access and update road data on the fly, thus providing others with the most recent data available. They call their design the Digital Chassis and they plan to store road data in the cloud for others to use.
To accomplish their goals, ClearMotion have partnered with Bridgestone and Qualcomm (for the communications units) and they purchased several assets from Bose including the Bose Ride business, Project Sound active suspension and other predictive road-sensing software from that company.
It’s such a simple idea that truly is an evolution of the hydro-pneumatic systems developed over 60 years ago.