Environment

Low-cost system uses passing vehicles to generate electricity

The new system puts the weight of vehicles to use
The new system puts the weight of vehicles to use
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Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández, inventor of the system
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Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández, inventor of the system
The new system puts the weight of vehicles to use
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The new system puts the weight of vehicles to use

Over the years, various researchers have developed systems in which the weight transferred through cars' wheels onto the road – or through pedestrians' feet onto the sidewalk – is used to generate electricity. These systems utilize piezoelectric materials, which convert mechanical stress into an electrical current. Such materials may be effective, but they're also too expensive for use in many parts of the world. That's why Mexican entrepreneur Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández created his own rather ingenious alternative.

In Macías Hernández' system, small ramps made from a tough, tire-like polymer are embedded in the road, protruding 5 cm (2 in) above the surface. When cars drive over them, the ramps are temporarily pushed down.

When this happens, air is forced through a bellows that's attached to the underside of the ramp. That air travels through a hose, and is compressed in a storage tank. The stored compressed air is ultimately fed into a turbine, generating electricity.

Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández, inventor of the system
Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández, inventor of the system

The higher the amount of traffic where one of the ramps is present, the greater the amount of electricity that can be generated. Macías Hernández points out, however, that in lower-traffic areas, multiple ramps placed along the length of the road could be used to generate more electricity from each individual vehicle. He adds that the technology could also be used with pedestrian foot-traffic.

The system is currently still in development, with the support of the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property.

Source: Investigación y Desarrollo

26 comments
Milton
A better idea would be to harness energy without having pedestrians / drivers foot the bill. (...hello Solar, Hydro, Wind...) In this scenario the people driving (or walking) would be the ones paying for this "low-cost" energy. Basically, what we have here is an overly-complicated gasoline generator. (assuming the vehicles being driven are running on Gasoline).
Robt
No such thing as a free lunch. He's stealing energy in the form of higher gas consumption from each passing car.
kwarks
@Robt Of course. The point of this system is to provide energy in places where an electrical grid is impossible or prohibitively expensive.
thk
Well, if you install it as speed bumps, you practically kill two birds with one stone.
ivan4
Who in their right mind would drive down a road fitted with them? what you have is a speed hump that depresses slightly - NOT the the ideal thing to have on a busy open road!
nutcase
How many passing trucks will this bellows mechanism withstand?
highlandboy
Given that few people have energy capture when breaking this could be effectively used for braking down hills at no cost to the motorist. Energy dissipated through braking systems could in fact be passed to the grid at no cost to the motorist (except maybe some wear on the suspension) and with savings on the brakes.
The Skud
Will ultimately fail on at least 3 counts - a): Manufacturers spend millions looking for a 'smoother' ride for their car drivers, complaints would multiply expotentially. b): Rolling out enough 'track' to generate sufficient power for reasonable 'payback' time will probably end up costing too much. c): Can you even try to imagine a whole road made of little speed bumps? (See point a). The vibration issues would be hard to overcome.
Paul Robertson
It actually makes an ideal speed hump. A larger bellows would generate more power, intimidate those speeding into a safe speed, depress when driven over to generate power and reduce wear on vehicle suspension. It's a win, win, win for power users, pedestrians and maintenance bills of car owners.
christopher
This is plain, outright theft. Why is gizmag even telling us about it?