Jorge Chapa

Researchers Roll Out Energy Generating Roads

by , 12/16/08

energy generating roads, renewable energy, sustainable design, green design, israel technion institute, clean technology, kinetic energy

Engineers at Innowattech in Israel recently created a new type of road that generates electricity as vehicles pass over it! The supercharged surface is embedded with piezoelectric crystals, which transform kinetic energy from passing vehicles into an electrical current. With widespread adoption, the technology could feed energy back into the nation’s burgeoning electric vehicle grid, transforming congested roadways into a clean green source of energy.


energy generating roads, renewable energy, sustainable design, green design, israel technion institute, clean technology, kinetic energy

In the past we’ve featured energy-generating dance floors and tourist attractions, and just last week we brought you news of one in the Tokyo subway station, but we think that this one tops them all.

The energy-generating roadway works thanks to piezoelectric crystals embeded in the asphalt. As vehicles pass over them, the vibrations generate a small amount of electricity that travels to a larger transformer which then distributes the energy. The generators can be as thin as a few centimeters or can cover large expansive surfaces, and can be easily adapted for a variety of different transit systems including roadways, railways and even airplane runways.

Even though the amount of electricity generated is not that much (around 400 kilowatts per kilometer), we’re inspired by the innovative approach and far reaching implications of the technology. The team, led by Haim Abramovich, is getting ready to test the system on a 100 meter road next month in Israel.

+ Innowattech

Via ETA and Motor Authority

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13 Comments

  1. Tatum4congress January 3, 2009 at 11:47 am

    @DDrescher

    Uh.. no please look into the piezoelectric effect before you spout off things like that. For MPGs to be decreased you would need increased friction, and since there is no increased friction when using asphalt imbued with piezoelectric crystals there is no increased rolling resistance, as electricity can be generated from as little as .1% deflection from the original state. Second there is no such thing as deceleration, its a colloquialism, its called negative acceleration. Acceleration is only a change in velocity not necessarily an increase. And this tech is green because it is harnessing otherwise lost energy as mentioned by the OP and like half of the people leaving comments. I am all for the green revolution but some people seem to be like if its not 150% green its not good enough, and i’m sorry but that kind of attitude is how Corporate America has marginalized you, silenced yo,u and made you the laughing stock of the country. “Tree hugging hippies” being a pejorative is all the proof one needs.

    Hope to see more tech like this in the future and love the Blog keep up the good work :)

  2. ddrescher December 23, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    The energy has to come from increasing the rolling resistance of the tires and thus it will lower MPG and burn more gas per mile. How is that green? Perhaps using a gas powered generator would be less costly and more efficient. Shouldn’t the drivers be compensated for the energy they are transfering to the grid? One good application would be in situations where high rolling resistance is desirable such as in deceleration lanes or on a runway only used for landings.

  3. LoudNoiseElitist December 23, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    @labann:

    So long as there are plenty of places where few people travel to smaller places to work, and there still aren’t established public transportation systems (due to the overhead required vs. the number of people using it), there will still be a need for individual transportation.

    It will take a complete overhaul of the way a majority of of cities and suburbs work before individual transportation can be done away with.

  4. ThornG@Z December 19, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Look forward to the referenced test results including effects of speed. Also the follow up could address the following: the typical installation methodology including conduit or other isolation of wiring in the moist ground; an electrical schematic showing the solution to the inverter placements (vandal-proof in the public domain); a sustainable resource assessment of the “piezoelectric” crystals; whether they work in light colored concrete paving (preferred for heat island effect); considerations of deconstructability and reuse; life cycle / kwh cost analysis. Finally, what the heck were those yellow orange doo-dads in the picture?

  5. thinksketch December 17, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I have posted a response to this article on my blog thinksketch.wordpress.com
    “In reality this technology is not about energy generation – it is about infrastructure. Like a battery, the technology doesn’t create energy but makes it efficient to transport energy. So it could be a great technology in roads if it saves us infrastructure costs like installing electric cables for lighting….[but] don’t be greenwashed into thinking this is some magic paint you can spread on every surface to power your life.

    read the whole article here:
    http://thinksketch.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/piezoelectrics-cool-useful-but-not-an-energy-solution/

  6. cpine December 17, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I concur with the earlier comments that this is an energy RECOVERY system, in a context similar to regenerative breaking in an electric or hybrid-electric car. Then the cost-benefit has to be evaluated as to the cost of implementing and maintaining the system vs. the energy recovered and the purpose to which the recovered energy is put (i.e., in support of the technological infrastructure from which it is recovered, or shunted off to the power grid to be wasted in silly missives on internet blogs… ;>)

  7. labann December 17, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    The smart approach would be to ignore such regressive technologies and return to light rail run on renewable electricity, as produced by hydro-electric, solar and wind. The bailout of automotive demonstrates that the age of individual transportation via private vehicles is doomed.

  8. lewis December 17, 2008 at 4:35 am

    Some schemes like this aren’t that green – like the phone charger attached to your bike. Or the charger attached to a hand-powered loom featured a couple months back.

    In this case, the energy is otherwise being wasted. It doesnt require extra energy (petrol, food, whatever) to work

  9. Zalotto December 17, 2008 at 2:58 am

    Does the system is resistant to water? Frost? How much does it cost per m2? What is its shelf life?

  10. JustinJ December 16, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Yes, thank you, at least there are some people with a brain. Its intention is not to get electricity out of gasoline at all, we can already do that in such better ways, but the car is just wasting a lot of energy when it drives down the road, this is a way to recover some of that energy. And the efficiency of the car is barely affected at all.

    I think everything that incurs some kind of pressure in everyday use should have piezoelectrics embedded in them, especially places where people walk.

  11. WBrooke December 16, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    To Cool Penguin,

    This isn’t supposed to be a base-load power plant. They are just harvesting energy that is otherwise lost in compressing the asphalt. They are not suggesting that people drive around with the sole intent of generating electricity. People will continue to drive around for the same mundane reasons: because they need to get places, or to deliver goods, or just for fun. That part is not green. But people will continue to drive so long as there is a desire for personal mobility. The “green” part is that while people continue to live their lives, driving as they always do, this system will invisibly act in the background collecting energy that right now just goes to heating the pavement.

    You are correct…this system is very inefficient at converting chemical energy from automotive fuels into electricity. BUT it increases the efficiency of the car/roadway system since you get travel which is useful, and electricity which is also useful.

  12. Cyranix December 16, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Agreed with CoolPenguin — saw this on TreeHugger and it was similarly criticized there. I’d like to see a cost-benefit on this one…

  13. CoolPenguin December 16, 2008 at 7:17 am

    So chemical energy from petrol is converted to kinetic energy via combustion (car engine) and transferred to the road where it is converted to electrical energy from piezoelectric transducers. It’s just a really inefficient way of generating electricity from petrol: how is this green? What am I missing?

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