5 Underused & Innovative Suspension Designs
The majority of vehicles today use independent suspension, with a shock absorber and spring at each corner. This has become the standard layout for road car manufacturers.
Race car designers, however, are constantly looking for ways to shave fractions of a second off lap times and optimize performance. Sometimes that means redesigning a cars damping system. Here are 5 non-traditional and underused suspension set-ups for your perusal.
In Cantilever suspension set-ups, either a hinged sub-frame or wishbone is fixed to a rocker that operates the suspension. The build shown above is actually a 1996 Toyota Tacoma truck that has been slammed to the ground and consequently, there's no room for traditional damping set-ups. This truck also has airbag suspension, allowing for quick ride height changes for that mean, rakish stance. Cantilever designs are often seen on custom vehicle builds, thanks to the ease of tuning, load carrying capacity and great handling.
Pull / Pushrod Suspension
The pull-rod suspension was popularised by Formula One in the 1970s. In this layout, the suspension is relocated away from the wishbones and is operated by a rocker that's connected at one end to the damper with a pull-rod at the other. This rod is located on the cars wishbone. Teams found the relocated suspension helped reduce drag by packaging the dampers inside the bodywork and enabling the nose cone to be lowered, in turn lowering the center of gravity.
Push-rods later became more popular, essentially operating the opposite to pull rod set-ups.
A UK based manufacturing group recently released images of a new concept design, that of flexible wishbones. This new technology is dubbed 'Lift' and is essentially a flexible, single piece wishbone, that can be 3D printed using strong composite materials. The result? Less moving parts and a weight saving of up to 40%! The first prototypes will be tested on an Ariel Atom.
FRIC / Interconnected
FRIC system fitted to Mercedes F1 car
FRIC isn't a minor cuss word, it stands for Front to Rear Inter-Connected suspension and neither is it a new idea, with Ferrari using a rudimentary cable-based system in the 70s. More recent designs are hydraulically operated and link every four corners of an F1 car together.
The benefits are an increase in underbody downforce thanks to controllable braking attitude and rake control. The system can also transfer the huge braking forces generated by cars quickly decelerating, transferring it rearwards for optimal weight distribution and stabilizing handling. Clever stuff!
This suspension system makes the above designs look archaic. Audi has developed an electromechanical technology that it is calling 'eRot'.
The system is based around horizontally arranged rotary electric dampers, which it promises will give a more comfortable ride.
The coolest part though is it turns kinetic movement generated by the suspension compressing into electrical energy. The result is a reduction in CO2 output and it has numerous other advantages, such as a smaller form factor that increases trunk space. Vorsprung Durch Technik indeed!
Vehicle suspension is evolving rapidly, cars of the future will look quite different to ours now. Until then, take a look at our product range of superb track day suspension that delivers futuristic levels of performance.