Ford Wants to Make its Engines Levitate

Ford Wants to Make its Engines Levitate

No, for real. Ford is developing electromagnetic active engine mounts that are magnetic to better isolate the engine’s vibrations from the chassis.

Some high end automakers already use magnetorheological dampers to similar ends. These, though, work like a car’s suspension, using magnets to stiffen or soften a shock absorber. Ford’s patent meanwhile, would have the engine levitate magnetically.

To do that, it would use magnetic bearings. You can think of it as a rod that fits into tube, but never touches the sides of the tube. The patent includes the possibility that these can be passive (meaning that they take no power), which might be enough to support the engine when the car is off. That said, rubber stops will also be used to make sure there’s no crashing, and these could potentially be used to help out when the car is off.

When the car is on, the magnetic bearings will also be active. The advantage there being that by feeding more or less power to the system, you could make the magnetic field stronger or weaker, compensating for engine vibrations.

According to the patent, the system “removes the physical connection between the powertrain and the vehicle body, allowing the powertrain mount system to reduce vibration transmissivity while maintaining a high stiffness characteristic.”

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Ford adds that the patent could also apply to any part of the drivetrain, so the engine, the transmission, and the differential could all be attached to the body magnetically.

And since the mounts would be relatively simple, they could potentially be lighter than other active engine mounts. Current technology, though, does mean that magnetic bearings can be quite large. The question of how much power they use may also add weight and complexity to the vehicle.

Ford maintains that the system could be used on electric or internal combustion drivetrains, though a mild-hybrid 48-volt system would likely be helpful in providing power for the electromagnets.

While a levitating engine may sound like the most optimistic kind of futurism, the theory isn’t too different form that which makes maglev trains possible. Magnetic bearings, too, are fairly common now. That’s not to say they aren’t complicated—with magnetic eddies being required to keep both sides of the bearing stable—just that they don’t only belong in The Jetsons.

So keep an eye out for a levitating engine option in your next F-150 (or maybe Navigator).

A version of this story originally appeared on All Ford Mustangs