Sarah Parsons

Speed Bumps Harvest Electricity from Moving Cars

by , 09/08/09

sustainable design, green design, motionpower, new energy technologies, alternative energy, kinetic power

Fast food lovers may finally feel a little less guilty about getting greasy burgers. One New Jersey Burger King recently equipped its drive-thru with a speed bump that harvests electricity from cars that pass by. The speed bump is part of a pilot project from New Energy Technologies, and if all goes well, drivers could see energy-harvesting speed bumps at drive-thrus, toll plazas and even shopping centers.

sustainable design, green design, motionpower, new energy technologies, alternative energy, kinetic power

The speed bumps, or “MotionPower Energy Harvesters,” look much different from your typical concrete humps. The “bump” is actually flat, with long, skinny pedals running across the top. As cars drive over the speed bump, it pushes the pedals down and turns the gears inside. The spinning creates about 2,000 watts of electricity from a car moving at five miles per hour.

Energy created by the cars is instantaneous (like solar and wind power), meaning that speed bump developers must also figure out a way to store power for later use. To that end, developers at New Energy Technologies are currently experimenting with mini-flywheels (a device that stores energy by spinning), and also plan to look into supercapacitors and other energy-storing mechanisms. Eventually, once storage is perfected, the speed bumps could be used to power street lamps or even feed power directly to the grid.

While the pilot project has seen encouraging results, don’t expect to see energy-harvesting speed bumps at your local Mickey D’s anytime soon: The devices won’t be commercially available til sometime next year. Still, it’s intriguing to think that those midnight french fry cravings may help create clean, renewable power.

+ New Energy Technologies

Via Scientific American

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16 Comments

  1. ecoPark in Malibu Gets ... September 21, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    [...] that are charged on site with renewable energy and also generate energy when they travel on speed bumps around the park. Pages: 1 2 0 email thisemail facebookfacebook diggdigg tweetmeme_url = [...]

  2. JimmyP February 16, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Feasability is a major part of this Energy Harvesting Project and has to be carefully researched and looked into.

    If anybody wishes to discuss this more, then please email me at parkerja80@hotmail.com your input would be much apreciated…

  3. JimmyP February 16, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Hello All

    I am a student studying in UK and i have actually chosen this project as my Thesis project, and any imput that you guys have or even if you just want to discuss information, or argue validity then please feel free to email me at parkerja80@hotmail.com

    Kind Regards

  4. joming February 11, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    My point is that we should look at this technology over its entire lifetime, not just after it’s installed…
    How much energy is put into manufacturing the parts for this device, and does it actually make sense from an energy standpoint, in that more energy will be realized.
    That is to say, is the energy produced by these speed bumps (enough to power a bank of 20 checkout tills) enough to offset the energy involved with the production, installation, repair and maintenance of these devices?
    I do confess that I have not done any research into these, but i am just posing some questions for critical thought.b
    If the technology is feasbile, then i am certainly all for it. I just see what happened with biofuels, and it does make me slightly concerned about good intentions good astray

  5. jeff222233 February 11, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Have any of you actually done any research into these…
    They are in place of a normal speed bump anyway, so there harbouring energy that would otherwise be wasted as the car would pass over a normal speed bump.
    Oh and the normal ones cost £2,000 and don’t pay for themselves….

    And people that say it uses more fuel, how did you work that one out….?
    There cars, that people are driving to a drive though, that are going to drive down that piece of road anyway. Putting one of these in pays for itself within 3 years, so the company will benefit after that, and be getting free energy….
    They don’t need to be touched for 10 years, so that would mean you’d get 7 years worth of free energy, which is enough to power a bank of 20 checkout tills…..
    The kinetic energy is wasted through the braking for the car anyway, so it’s just reusing that.
    Oh, and similar systems are being used in Tokyo to power the ticket machines in busy train stations already…

  6. DKNO September 14, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Why stop at vehicle-oriented speed bumps?! – apply the principle to the pavements of bustling cities & have the inhabitants generate energy through their day to day outings – with human kinetic energy, transferred from -locally grown- chemical energy [food]…

  7. joming September 13, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    If you look at this device over its entire lifecycle, especially in manufacturing the machinery required , I wonder if this is something would reduce energy use… Sure you would be capturing otherwise wasted energy, but if you’re putting more into making these fancy speed bump (not to mention repairs), then is it a good idea?

  8. ngarneau September 13, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    “Just me”, what you say is totally idiot!!!!

    We all know that what goes up eventualy goes down. The opposite is also true… If you create a slope so you can put your car on neutral to go down you’ll then consume more fuel to drive up the slope and get back to the steet level.

  9. davidwayneosedach September 12, 2009 at 10:32 am

    This is harvesting otherwise entirely wasted energy. This is brilliant and the number of applications for speed bumps is enormous.

  10. Just me September 10, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    All they have to do is create a drive-thru on a slope. Turn off the car, put it in neutral and coast slowly until you get your food. The engine is not running, so it’s cleaner.

  11. achonx September 10, 2009 at 3:19 am

    You dont even know what you’re talking about, jingles. This mechanism works just like wave or tidal energy. This isn’t created mainly for car drivers to slow down. This is mainly created to capture kinetic energy from frequent car flow around fast food drive thru lane. Using a car body weight, it drives the mechanism to create 2000 watt of energy. If energy could be stored and distributed for street lights or other purposes, this could be one awesome solution for clean energy. Especially if in the future all cars are hybrid or electric, since they dont use gasoline at low speed cruising.

  12. nprentice September 8, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I Don’t agree with Jingle. The deisgn of this device assumes that the vehicle is slowing down. If this is true, then thi device converts the kinetic energy of the motion of the vehicle into kinetic energy into the actuation of the device, INSTEAD of into heat energy caused by the friction of the brakes. This heat energy is lost energy in the open air, which instead is being captured by the device.

    Of course if the original assumption is wrong, then this does not work.

    By the way, this is the same concept of all hybrid cars.

  13. xtophr September 8, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Ditto what jingles said. It really amounts to a tiny tax on customers in the form of fractional pennies of fuel required to overcome the obstacle. But why stop there? How about a retractable dynamo that engages the customer’s drive wheels? The customer would be required to accelerate on the dynamo for a period equal to the total energy cost of the purchase. An algorithm could be used to adjust the acceleration time to encourage/discourage consumption at various times, thereby spreading the demand more evenly throughout the day!

  14. hagandazs September 8, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    The car is losing energy and transferring to a speed bump. I shake my head sometimes… It only makes sense if the speed bump is actually necessary, not solely for the purpose of powering something.

  15. ohmanger September 8, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Whilst I agree with jingles that this isn’t cleanly powered, this is clean energy because the energy that would otherwise be wasted from the car going over a regular speed hump is put to use powering the generator.

    The only concern that I can think of is that the ‘hump’ might not appear to be as prominent as regular humps and so wouldn’t provide enough incentive for a driver to slow down.

  16. jingles September 8, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Energy conservation tells us that the power source is the car – i.e fossil fuel. Factor in energy losses, and the impact from upstream manufacturing, and you’d probably find that a gas generator would be more efficient. How can this be called clean energy?

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