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Turning traffic into electricity

Turning traffic into electricity

Taking wasted energy from auto traffic and turning it into electricity sounds hard to believe, but these Israeli researchers may be onto something (h/t LukeHandCool):

Scientists in Israel say they have invented a way of turning traffic into electricity.

The bright sparks at the country’s Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa have developed a road that generates power when vehicles pass over it.

And they hope the technology will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

In a university car park, Haim Abramovich and his team run a heavy truck repeatedly over a special stretch of tarmac….

It could be used to power traffic lights or street lamps already, but with sufficient progress the technology may one day generate enough electricity to send power to the national grid.

A company called Innowattech is working with the team to develop the technology.

It estimates a kilometre of ‘electric road’ could generate enough power for 40 houses.

Of course, all these Israeli inventions are nothing compared to the advances in technology, medical care, and science which come out of the countries that hate Israel.


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Oh come on professor; that’s totally not fair. Were it not for all those countries we’d have no idea how to behead soldiers, stone raped women, and kill infidels!

Lets see. When you look at Iran, you have to give them credit for all the rugs they make. Maybe they are the only products made in Iran, after thousands of years, that are suitable for export, but that has to count for something, no?

    elixelx in reply to Ipso Facto. | July 17, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Ipso, my buddy Ali, who lives in Teheran, informs me that in Bokhara and Ispahan, the rug-making centres in Iran, they are no longer allowed to produce rugs with “secular” designs; all rugs have to be, under penalty of death if they are not, of mullah-approved design and not show anything resembling an image, but only Satanic Verses and Rococo embellishment!
    If you know how these rugs are made, usually by hand, with little kids and women reading off a mathematically-rendered template (4 blue, 12 yellow etc.) you will know that some of these templates have existed and have been handed down as inheritances from father to son, for centuries, if not millenia–and now anyone caught with one is considered a criminal to be sent for “re-education”.
    Chalk up one more priceless cultural artefact destroyed by the “civilized” Muslim heirarchy!

LukeHandCool | July 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm

My only reservation is if this technology becomes widespread before Obama brings peace to the Middle East, we could see an explosion of Hamas technological innovation in car-bomb cars that charge themselves on the way to their targets.

For edible Israeli products, BDS should stand for Buy-Delight-Savor. For technological/medical, etc. products, Benefit-Develop-Support.

LukeHandCool (who, after listening to his son and his friend going back and forth again with, “Would you rather (dangerous/gross activity) OR (dangerous/gross activity)” while they practiced their lacrosse in the backyard, gave up trying to read on the lounge, and, just before dozing off for a blissful nap, came up with: Would you rather have to watch a recording of Obama’s most boring State of the Union Speech on TV TWICE before you could get out of bed each morning for the rest of your life … OR … have to vote in every election the rest of your life a straight Democratic ticket where 30% of the time your vote was the deciding vote?)

Dunno, Professor. This sounds like the car or truck has to provide the power to generate the electricity.

The laws of thermodynamics sort of forbid anything else.

That damned “No free good” thing the universe keeps asserting…

    Actually, Rags, that’s not what they’re saying. What they appear to be saying is that the car is expending x energy to move from point A to B. They propose to capture y% < x of that energy back.

They also say that if you create a gigantic coil parallel to the high tension power lines, that you could easily power your own home. While this particular example is illegal, thief of service, they both reduce the efficiency of the systems that they tap power from … yes, the fuel efficiency of the vehicles on this ‘electric road’ will go down .. the laws of physics can not be broken.

    Awing1 in reply to Neo. | July 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    There’s plenty of waste heat energy that could be harvested, no point criticizing it until we know how it works.

    elixelx in reply to Neo. | July 17, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Actually guys, the Israelis realize that there is no silver bullet, no 100% solution, to the energy problem–so they incrementalize; 5% here, 10% there.
    That’s why practically EVERY building in Israel has solar water heaters–only 10% of electrical use, but better than nothing! Now the solar panels are being adapted to power air-conditioning–only 15% of energy use but much better than nothing! Every street light, parking-ticket machine, street sign has it’s own little solar panel; only 3-5% but so much better than nothing…etc…so don’t doubt that the bright sparks at Technion will come up with a way to harness all that static electricity which moving cars induce and which used to make me car-sick!
    Global Problem, Local Solution!

For as well all know, Avicenna was from Israel and not Persia… oh wait…

    William A. Jacobson in reply to Awing1. | July 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    What have they done for us lately, as in the last 30 years, not 1000+ years ago?

      Well I know they bought those guns from, helped us help the Contras, but that probably doesn’t count. Fun fact, Oliver North went to the same undergrad (initially) as I did.

      How you look at a story like recovering waste energy and manage to see it as a statement about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is beyond me.

LukeHandCool | July 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm


They’re not talking about creating traffic for the purpose of generating electricity, but harvesting energy from the already existing daily traffic of people going to and fro on highways (and I would hope, eventually regular thoroughfares in cities).

My goodness, if a one kilometer (about 0.6 miles) stretch of highway could generate power for 40 homes … do the multiplication. Take the millions and millions of miles of highways and major streets around the world and the potential is staggering.

Then my “Would you rather …?” question becomes, to the anti-Israeli greenies (I figure most hard-core environmentalists would side with the Palestinians):

Would you rather Israel develops this technology to the point it is used worldwide, thereby eliminating so much polluting energy generation (coal plants, etc.) that the global-warming problem, if one really exists, is conquered almost overnight and, by so doing, Israel enjoys thanks in the form of sudden support of almost all countries in the world, and the Palestinians, losing the support of backers and enablers, finally are forced to join Israel in a good-faith resolution of the peace process …


Would you rather this technology proves to be a bust, with global warming still a giant cow to be milked for government money and an apocalyptic cause to harangue and hector everyone else giving you an almost orgasmic feeling of indignation, while still being able to enjoy the simple pleasure that comes from supporting the “underdog” Palestinians against the evil Zionists?

No need to answer. I already know your answer (with the help of a little truth serum).

LukeHandCool (who could kick himself for postponing the family trip to Yosemite and Mammoth this week … he foolishly believed all the “experts” dire predictions of “Car-mageddon” with the closing of the 405 Freeway this weekend … and whose daughter, driving from USC (downtown L.A.) to the coast took just 20 minutes today, proving it “Car-maheaven.” And who wonders how experts manage to get things so wrong so often and still and still are called experts).

    Ragspierre in reply to LukeHandCool. | July 17, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Luke, you beclown yourself.

    First, you don’t understand physics. Power is not generated from nothing. The vehicle generating the power in this plan WOULD be subjected to more “drag” (for lack of a better term).

    This is just intuitive. Consider a generator set that HAS to have an engine converting one form of energy to another.

    The ONLY place this would be a net benefit would be on steep downgrades, where the increased resistance to the vehicle’s movement would not cost its operator more expense AND would slow the vehicle along the descent.

    Second, you have no earthly idea what I think, or my character for truth.

Isn’t this all the more reason for the Arabs to destroy Israel? If this works we need less oil and gas, thus damaging the economies of those OPEC nations?

This type of system would work well with our highway system. Lots of straight stretches built to accommodate airplanes taking off or landing means less curves, more speed, and more electricity generated. Too bad the Fed controls the interstate system. I could see states getting rid of local power plants because of the cheap clean energy given off by highways. All is good until they cross the Fed ala Arizona or Texas, then the threats of having the power switch shut off on the fed controlled highways powering their state. Either the states do what the Fed wants, or they throw the switch. Same as today.

Yes, the fuel efficiency of cars would be affected. However, more than enough natural energy reserves exist in this world to power it for generations and generations to come. As the technology improves, the transportation uses less gas, and the finite natural reserves we have like oil and gas last longer. So, while the fuel efficiency will go down because of the road, it might be a scenario where the auto goes from 80MPG down to 65MPG when the power highway is implemented, and before the auto is optimized for such a situation.

LukeHandCool | July 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Maybe I’m missing the obvious (wouldn’t be the first time), but how would the fuel efficiency of cars necessarily be affected negatively? There is no mention in the article of any variables relating to fuel efficiency.

If the weight of passing vehicles is weighing upon a supporting bed of special metallic crystals which emit electricity under pressure (either as one layer of a number of layers in that bed or as a component mixed within the usual materials … concrete/asphalt), if all else remains the same (such as the firmness, for lack of a more technical term offhand, of the roadway) resulting in no extra drag, why would a highway incorporating this technology affect fuel efficiency?

    Awing1 in reply to LukeHandCool. | July 17, 2011 at 12:35 am

    I think a few people here are confused about the laws of physics. As the professor notes they convert waste energy to electricity, there’s no reason to assume it effects fuel efficiency, and would in fact suggest it explicitly doesn’t have an effect. There’s plenty of heat energy that is wasted when a vehicle moves across standard pavement that could be harnessed exactly as you stated.

I saw a special on this several years ago. Think of it like this: If a waterwheel were set up underneath a waterfall, catching the water as it fell, and spinning the wheel, can the water from the waterfall possibly fall at the same speed with the waterwheel there as without it? The mechanism has to “take hold” of the energy source in question so as to draw power from it. Can you pull a chariot with no harness for the horses? If there was a device that spun a wheel every time a car flew by, there would be wind resistance generated by the device, and that would transfer to the next car that passes by, slowing it. That is for a very indirect energy transfer. The idea from what I recall, is sort of like a very low speed bump on the ground that resembles pipe that spins a flywheel that charges a battery when spinning tires come into contact with it. So, if a driver were going 50MPH, with wheels spinning at 5000RPMs [just total example numbers here], then for the few seconds the spinning wheel contacts the pipe, 10% of those 5000RPMs from the tire might be given to the pipe, reducing the fuel efficiency of the car directly by 10% for those few seconds. By that I mean that wheel spins 500RPMs for for the pipe, yet gives no benefit to the car. That energy is transferred to the grid. There will always be some kind of drain on the energy source, otherwise no energy can said to have been extracted if the energy source has the same energy after you have tapped it as before you tapped it.

LukeHandCool | July 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm


“Luke, you beclown yourself.”

–Long ago Cognitive Behavioral Therapy cured me of my Becoulrophobia (Coulrophobia = the fear of clowns).

“First, you don’t understand physics. Power is not generated from nothing.”

–But your beclowning of me (if beclowning can be used as a non-reflexive verb) seems to be a form of spontaneous generation. I never said, nor thought, power could be generated from nothing.

“The vehicle generating the power in this plan WOULD be subjected to more “drag” (for lack of a better term).”

–Your lack of a better term belies (if not beclowns) your great understanding of physics. Can you please explain with a few more speciphysics?

“This is just intuitive.”

–What in physics isn’t? If I knew the proofs were so simple, I’d have chosen it as a second major.

“Consider a generator set that HAS to have an engine converting one form of energy to another.”

–What does that have to do with drag and declining fuel efficiency?

“Second, you have no earthly idea what I think …”

–I’m guilty there … I have that problem when people are being inarticulate. Unlike you, I don’t get snarky or insulting until someone takes a swipe at me. I was sincerely trying to point out what appeared to be your misunderstanding of the article. SDN felt the same way when s/he replied to you:

“Actually, Rags, that’s not what they’re saying. What they appear to be saying is that the car is expending x energy to move from point A to B. They propose to capture y% < x of that energy back."

"… or my character for truth."

–I'm tempted to say, "What the hell???" But I'll simply say, "Whatever."

LukeHandCool (who, as always, says, No hard feelings).

–Your lack of a better term belies (if not beclowns) your great understanding of physics. Can you please explain with a few more speciphysics?

Forgive me for writing to my target audience. Or not. You either got the point, or you did not. You chose to ignore it…again. Work has to be expended to create power.

–I’m tempted to say, “What the hell???” But I’ll simply say, “Whatever.”

“No need to answer. I already know your answer (with the help of a little truth serum).”

That says, “I know your thinking, and you would lie” rather clearly.

And, you continue to ignore my basic post assertion; you do not get something from nothing.

I pretend no expertise in piezo-electrics, but from observation, they produce nothing without the expenditure of work. Consistent with the laws of thermodynamics.

Unless you are an engineer working in the field, I suggest everything you said regarding where the “good” comes from is gas.

LukeHandCool | July 17, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Now I see what’s eating you. The very first time I addressed you, it was only the very first sentence meant for you. The rest of that comment was not addressed to you but to “anti-Israeli greenies.”

Back to energy. Again, when did I ever say you get something out of nothing? The weight and movement of the vehicles over concrete results in wasted energy that could be harvested by a material that, unlike concrete, produces electricity when put under pressure.

Quick (perhaps beclowning) example. I press my fist against a slab of concrete as hard as I can for a minute. The energy is not coming from nothing, but rather from the calories I’ve consumed. However, the energy of my pressing against the concrete is wasted … it hasn’t disappeared … it is simply not useful to us.

Now, if I press against a slab of these crystals, a tiny percentage will be converted into electicity (let’s say the threshold level for force needed is low) while most is lost as heat. That’s why I don’t see drag entering into the equation.

LukeHandCool (who wishes we could harness the energy released when Israeli technological innovations are debated)

common tater | July 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Why all the resistance and ungrounded skepticism regarding this current research? Israeli “juice” could transform the world, were we to amp up support and not re-fuse shocking innovation.

I say, more power to all of us, or is my reasoning circuitous and me too wired from morning coffee?

Unfortunately, this is stupid, wasteful and does NOT “reduce our dependence on fossil fuels”. In fact it DOES use fossil fuels–the ones powering the cars. You cannot get free energy from nowhere. It comes from the motor driving the vehicle. Systems like this have been tried before, including one that harvested energy from speed bumps, from cars idling at fast food drive-throughs, etc. They all are incredibly inefficient and harvest barely any energy, and they all have a real cost in gasoline that has to be accounted for. You don’t have to be an expert in the laws of thermodynamics to realize that it would be much more efficient in terms of output and costs to simply hook up a gasoline engine to a generator. Feelgood ideas like this are worse than doing nothing.