This work presents an investigation into the parameter estimation of suspension components and the vertical motions of wheeled vehicles from experimental data. The estimation problems considered were for suspension dampers, a single wheel station and a full vehicle. Using conventional methods (gradient-based (GB), Downhill Simplex (DS)) and stochastic methods (Genetic Algorithm (GA) and Differential Evolution (DE)), three major problems were encountered. These were concerned with the ability and consistency of finding the global optimum solution, time consumption in the estimation process, and the difficulties in setting the algorithm's control parameters. To overcome these problems, a new technique named the discrete variable Hybrid Differential Evolution (dvHDE) method is presented. The new dvHDE method employs an integer-encoding technique and treats all parameters involved in the same unified way as discrete variables, and embeds two mechanisms that can be used to deal with convergence difficulties and reduce the time consumed in the optimisation process. The dvHDE algorithm has been validated against the conventional GB, DS and DE techniques and was shown to be more efficient and effective in all but the simplest cases. Its robustness was demonstrated by its application to a number of vehicle related problems of increasing complexity. These include case studies involving parameter estimation using experimental data from tests on automotive dampers, a single wheel station and a full vehicle. The investigation has shown that the proposed dvHDE method, when compared to the other methods, was the best for finding the global optimum solutions in a short time. It is recommended for nonlinear vehicle suspension models and other similar systems
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