Lightning Hybrids, designer and manufacturer of hydraulic brake regeneration systems for medium- and heavy-duty fleet vehicles, announces it has been awarded a full U.S. utility patent for the fourth generation of its parallel hybrid system.
“This patent award illustrates not only our innovation, but also our efforts to find new opportunities in an area historically dominated by large companies,” says Tim Reeser, Lightning Hybrids President and co-founder. “It separates us from the crowd of others who have worked on previous hybrid technologies and clearly establishes Lightning Hybrids as the international leader and innovator in the hydraulic hybrid space.”
The patent, specifically for a “hydraulic regeneration apparatus,” was awarded January 21, 2015. The regeneration apparatus or hybrid system, which the patent grants exclusive rights and inventor status to Lightning Hybrids, uses hydraulic pumps and accumulators to capture braking energy and regenerate it for accelerating a vehicle.
Dan Johnson, Lightning Hybrids co-founder and CTO who co-invented the new patented system with Senior Controls Engineer, Jonathan Reynolds, says the new patent built on previous generations and focused on making the system more efficient.
“Eliminating a lot of the parts in the system was a big goal,” Johnson says. “By doing that, we were able to dramatically increase the efficiencies of the system. The higher the efficiency, the more we can decrease emissions and increase fuel savings.”
Johnson says a primary goal for the new patent was making the system lighter by using more aluminum in its construction and by having fewer parts. “Fewer parts means a significant cost savings, and a lighter system means higher efficiency overall. It means fleets are able to have a higher payload, allowing them to effectually do the work they’re on the road to do in a cleaner, more efficient way.”
Reaching the fourth generation of Lightning Hybrids’ parallel hybrid system was the result of six years of work. Reynolds says the project was an engineering venture. “Designing any system from the ground up is challenging,” he says. “This hydraulic hybrid system was particularly perplexing because we had to create so many of the building blocks. Several parts in our system did not exist before – at least not in the form we needed. Lightning Hybrids has faced many challenges and met them with successful engineering solutions.”
Reynolds says new manufacturing processes were instrumental in achieving Lightning Hybrids’ patent goal. “Advanced manufacturing technologies helped us iterate our designs quickly to get to a finished product,” he says. “We have utilized 3D printing, 3D scanning, CNC machining, carbon fiber manufacturing, thermal imaging and in-house PCB etching – all of which have helped us make some great breakthroughs, but real progress primarily comes from being dedicated to innovate.”
Lightning Hybrids’ system provides 50 to 90% reduction in harmful emissions as well as fuel efficiency gains by regenerating braking energy. The Lightning Hybrids system does not have batteries. Instead, it safely and efficiently stores energy mechanically in composite hydraulic accumulators, which are a fraction of the cost and weight of batteries.
The company says it has filed for international patent protection for the system and expects it to be awarded yet this year.