New BMW patent could charge electric cars with speed bumps and potholes

Why is it important: Car manufacturers are constantly looking for innovative ways to charge e-vehicles to improve their viability and range. The availability of charging stations for electric vehicles is growing but still limited. Automaker BMW is the latest company to consider extracting power from automotive suspension systems.

BMW filed a patent last month for a system that helps charge electric vehicles when they go over obstacles like speed bumps or potholes. This process makes use of the sudden up and down movements of the vehicle’s wheels when hitting such objects.

Normally, when a car hits a pothole or speed bump, the suspension absorbs the energy from the vertical movement of the wheels and then the dampers dissipate it. According to BMW patent, a generator containing a spinning wheel attached to a suspension system could instead store the energy that the springs absorb and release. CarBuzz notes that the process may accusation high-voltage electric vehicle traction battery or 12 V electric battery.

The patent does not indicate which future BMW model may have this system or whether the method will ever be implemented. Companies often file patents for devices that never reach the market.

The German automaker is not the only company considering charging electric vehicles with kinetic energy from bumps and dips in the road. Gig Energy development system using the same fundamental concept. Its website advertises the energy savings it can provide for trucks, vans, cars and other vehicles. Audi also played with recovering energy from suspension systems years ago with eROT, but eventually let that idea go.

Since charging stations for electric vehicles are not available everywhere, companies are exploring various alternative methods. In June, Electreon announced plans to build a one-mile trial road in Detroit that could charge electric vehicles wirelessly. The under-street coil system will connect to the power grid and charge vehicles based on their speed and will not be dangerous to animals or people crossing the road.

Ideas like wireless charging on the road or suspension energy savings can increase the range of an electric car and save people’s energy, but they probably won’t keep cars fully charged. Charging stations are likely to remain the main way to refuel electric vehicles for the foreseeable future, and groups like Electrify America are working to expand their reach.

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