The EVX electric shock absorber
Give us your names and tell us a bit about yourselves?
Jonathan Albert: mechanical engineer and I have worked at Hydrosteer
Issam Al Mushcab: mechanical engineer and I have worked at ANCA motion
Clint Steele: mechanical engineer and I have worked for a number of companies as a design engineer and in academia
Tell us about your product
It’s a shock absorber that uses an electric motor/generator to provide a damping force. It then converts the respective energy to electrical energy that can be used by the vehicle. The main advantage being that it reclaims energy that would have once been lost.
Where did this idea come from?
EVX was originally setup to commercialise a solar car. A lot like the Team Arrow car from Queensland.
Unfortunately, the relationship we had with Swinburne came to an end, and we needed to rein in our goals. The shocker was part of the solar car program. Because solar cars really need to save energy, it was worth the effort to overcome the challenges that we think put everyone else off when they looked at shockers like this. As we reviewed all the tech we had been developing along the way of designing the solar, the effort we had put into the shocks made them the front runner for further development.
We still hope to come back to the car someday.
So your product replaces traditional hydraulic shock abosrbers?
It does, but it might also end up replacing some parts of modern stability control systems. People in the auto industry have expressed interest in its ability to rapidly tune. They like the idea of making the front outside shock stiffer while a car corners. If we can build some intelligence into the shocker, then it might know when it needs to be stiffer without the need for being connected to the rest of the control system. But that’s off into the future.
So the main advantages are fuel/energy savings and possibly better stability control?
Certainly the fuel saving is one that gets people’s attention, but it might be the stability control that turns out to be the big hook. That being said, the fact that it generates power that is a function of the vertical tyre movement, means there might be other avenues related to driver feedback about how they are treating the car – this could be good for fleet management. We also feel that with no pressurised gasses to leak, we could have a more reliable product than the current offering.
That sounds very positive, but I am sure that there have been challenges?
Indeed. The two big issues have been getting the weight down and coming up with the best way of connecting the vertical moving elements to the generator. At first, we imagined a solenoid type design. However, the operating speed combined with the laws of magnetism meant that it would need to be an enormous solenoid. That’s why we needed to design something with gears and such; to connect the vertical elements to a regular rotary motor.
Once we overcame that, the rest was ensuring durability and simply fitting all the parts into a suitable package. Which sounds easy when you say it, but is very time consuming.
That’s all technical stuff. What about commercial stuff?
It’s a hard slog. People like the idea, but the ones who would buy it want to see a working prototype before they say they will order. And the ones who would fund the development want to see orders first. We have been steadily (and slowly) working on getting to a stage where someone says ‘yes’ so that others will then say ‘yes’ too. All you can do is stick at it until you get traction somewhere.
Given all that, when you present to the audience at the EV expo this year, what insights would you like from them?
It’s always good to have people look for flaws. Either you fix them before they become a major issue, or you know that you have covered them off as people raise things you have already thought of.
But it need not be all negative.
We are looking forward to the commercial networking event where we might make more contacts to help with commercialisation.
We also like hearing about other applications. It was at another expo when we got the idea of using the basic design in a wave power system. A buoy and a weight would be connected via the shocker. As waves come by the shocker can tune itself to maximise the power produced as it damps the relative movement between the buoy and the weight. Any creative ideas like that from the audience are excellent. It provides other commercialisation ideas.
Take a look at a video of a mechanical prototype being tested below