Automobile suspensions have come a long way from their humble spring and tension beginnings to the common hydraulic systems in place today, but researchers at Eindhoven University think they can do even better: electromagnetic suspension. Building on an idea that’s been incubating in the auto tech world for a while now, a team there now has a test car ready to demonstrate the technology, which they claim improves ride quality by 60 percent.
Quantifying ride quality into a percentage seems difficult/nebulous, but the technology does seem to have quite a theoretical edge over even the best active hydraulic suspensions. That’s simply because electromagnetic systems can react more quickly to bumps in the road than hydraulic systems can. As sensors and accelerometers placed around the car feed data into an onboard computer, it should be able to make nearly instantaneous adjustments to the ride at all four wheels.
This, according to the Eindhoven team, is the core technological principle that makes its electromagnetic suspension superior to the usual active hydraulic systems. But the benefits don’t end there. Each shock absorber unit packs both an electromagnetic actuator and a passive spring, so if the batteries for some reason fail in the electromagnetic system, the suspension still functions as a mechanical system (via the spring) until the car can be serviced.
Moreover the batteries have a peak consumption of 500 watts, the Eindhoven team says, which is roughly a quarter of the power needed to keep active hydraulic systems running. The new system also incorporates tiny generators that turn road vibrations into battery power, helping to keep batteries replenished without tapping the car’s main power source.
As for that 60 percent ride improvement number, it was obtained in the lab and we’re not exactly sure what 60 percent overall ride improvement feels like. But seeing the benefits on paper definitely makes us feel like an electromagnetic suspension could go a long ways toward smoothing out an otherwise bumpy ride.