Matt Kimberley profile picture Matt Kimberley 5 years ago
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This Prototype Suspension Design Has No Springs Or Dampers

With the ultimate aim of saving weight, this weird, flexible double-wishbone suspension system can be tuned to different specifications and will last longer than the rest of the car

Remind me later
Image: Lift/Simpact/Ariel/Warwick Manufacturing Group
Image: Lift/Simpact/Ariel/Warwick Manufacturing Group

A British consortium has developed a prototype suspension system with no springs, no dampers and a 40 per cent weight reduction versus comparable conventional systems. Based on a double-wishbone design that flexes to absorb bumps and mimic conventional suspension, the ‘Lift’ system is basically black magic.

Lift stands for Lightweight Innovative Flexible Technology, and the tech even has the future potential to actively generate electricity and contribute towards the electrical power needed to drive an EV. According to a report in Autocar, the developers include Ariel, the makers of the Atom. The results so far have come from a round of funding from Innovate UK, but the money is running out and the project needs more if it’s going to move forwards.

Ariel could use the design if it makes it to production
Ariel could use the design if it makes it to production

Dirk Landheer, managing director of consortium member Simpact, the company that actually came up with the idea, told Autocar:

“The concept isn’t difficult to understand. The flexible wishbones attach to the chassis and their internal structural design controls the wheel movement.

“However, suspension systems move in a variety of directions, not just up and down, so it’s highly complex in detail. Only now that we have access to a great deal of computer power has it been possible to analyse and prove the system in all conditions.”

Simpact has previously helped shave 10 per cent of the weight out of a Caterham chassis
Simpact has previously helped shave 10 per cent of the weight out of a Caterham chassis

By manufacturing the suspension arms with composite fibres that are strictly controlled to lie in very specific directions, the engineers can make the arms compliant in the complex array of ways they need to be, but stiff elsewhere. The design should have a service life of over 600,000 miles; more than the life of at least 99.9 per cent of cars, and it should suit trucks as well as cars.

But possibly the most fascinating prospect is that by using piezo fibres, which can change their behaviour when exposed to electrical currents and, in the other direction, generate electricity from movement. The idea is that the natural movement of the arms as they absorb bumps in the road could produce enough current to make a dent in the electrical demands of electric cars. That would increase driving range by an impressive margin, or at least let manufacturers use smaller, lighter batteries for the same driving range.