A supermarket in the UK is using a novel way of harnessing energy from their customers. Embedding their parking lot with weight-sensitive plates, cars impart kinetic energy as they pass through, which is then collected and used to power their cash registers.
When a car drives by, plates are depressed and the motion is passed along hydraulics to a generator, which produces 30kw of energy an hour. If one parking lot can power cash registers, imagine packing roads with this technology and how much energy can be recollected from all the world's drivers?
Not to be outdone, the store has installed a ton of other green technologies. Rainwater is collected to flush toilets and will be heated by solar thermal heat during the winter. Large windows and sun pipes reduce the need for artificial sources of light. Even excess cold air from their fridges is piped into the checkout area to keep it cool. Either this store has set the standard for the future of green architecture or it is just trying to shame everyone into following suit.
This energy isn't free. It's being absorbed from their own customers.
I wonder if the supermarket prices reflect that?
I should think it should somewhat, they dotn ahve a utility bill to pay.. I would also imagine that a store like this would draw more people than other stores, just because people want to see the "high tech" store.
Its a bout time that this is starting to be implemented though. Anotehr thought, (and im not sure how viable) that ive had for years is small gears on all old fashioned doors in a city. The gears would be much like the ones you used in shchool to power a lighbulb. It wasnt very efficient work on thats scale. But think of how many doors are opened every day. Of course, if i could harness the power of theories and ideas i pull out of my ass, we would all be set power-wise for years to come.
stealing energy from consumers. wow.
This system actually probably USES more energy than just buying it from their utility. What they're basically doing is stealing a little bit of energy from every car that drives by. That energy is produced by a relatively inefficient engine. Then you have the inefficiency of transmitting that energy through the road and plates, and through the new generator, to then power the checkouts. I would think this actually wastes more energy overall than using a much more efficient utility to generate and transmit the power.
What they're doing:
Oil pumped -> oil transported -> oil refined -> gas transported -> gas burned in engine creates mechanical energy -> mechanical energy transmitted to generator -> generator converts back to electricity
Even if the utility just burns oil to produce the power (which they don't because it is not as efficienty as other sources), they still skip the refining, tranportation, inefficient burn in a gas engine, and then again turning it from mechanical energy back to electricity. There's a whole lot fewer places to waste energy if you do it from the utility.
Large scale is the most effecient way to generate power from fuels, and a power plant is much more efficient than a car a little generators. How about a REAL idea, because this just seems like a publicity stunt.
What happens if there are no cars giving the store power? Are the registers dead and all customers have to wait for someone to drive by to give them power?
Almost all the comments above me are completely insane. This energy is not being "stolen" from cars or consumers or anybody, this is energy that previously was simply lost, this technology simply captures energy that is normally absorbed by the pavement in the road. The supermarket thus can reduce prices as a result of decreased net energy consumption. A system like this would be quite easy to implement without causing power outages, if no energy is being produced it would be pulled from the grid just like normal.
Kickstand I kind of actually like that idea with the hinges even though it would be a marginal gain of energy.
The rest of you are just completely crazy - nobody is "stealing" energy, energy that traditionally is wasted is now just being recaptured and used.
Have you ever been sitting in a parked car next to a road and felt the car shake when someone drove by? Well instead of you shaking, plates in the road shake which are attached to generators and produce energy.
Hold it marcoreid what happens is when we drive by it pushes down on the plates powering a generator, now most of this down force is caused by gravity (duh) so this system is really powered by gravity not the cars "mechanical energy".
In that case the would have some sort of back up system to power the cash registers.
looks like you beat me to it bdhoro I should have refreshed my page before I posted my bad.
The first plate drops slightly, then the car uses a little extra fuel, to climb upwards slightly onto the second plate which drops, and then a little extra fuel to climb up... and so on.
What people are also forgetting, is that the investment in the hardware has to show a return on money spent buying and installing it.
Would the cash value of the power saved, pay for the interest on the borrowed money invested in the system, and pay off the hardware before it wears out or if they had the cash already, might there not be a better profit, by investing the money in something that gives a better $$ return?
Seeing it is a mechanical system, there would be a high amount of wear, and expenditure on maintenance.
With solar power, its always the cost of buying the solar panels, power storage and controlling equipment preventing it becoming more widely used, its only recently becoming cost effective, DESPITE the sun being free.
The store is making a selling feature of Green Technology, but this particular item is more likely to be a gimmick than helping reduce the cost of groceries.
Another thing to consider, e.g, energy saving light bulbs, yes, they do save energy while producing light, but how much energy is used in making that light bulb considering there is more inside them than the old type bulbs, and that turning them on and off too often shortens their life, so its best to leave them on for long periods. I see it more as a saving in carbon emissions by the USA as most such bulbs are made in places like China leaving the USA only to provide power to run them, not make them.
BTW, doesn't the Tokyo (or somewhere) subway have such a system (for people, not cars) in front of the ticket booths, to power the ticket printers?
Lame useless vaporware, wont get out of prototype if it even gets that far.
"The first plate drops slightly, then the car uses a little extra fuel, to climb upwards slightly onto the second plate which drops, and then a little extra fuel to climb up... and so on."
NOOOO, this is not how it works. These plates will not create any more resistance on the car than any normal road. Using exactly the same amount of fuel as driving over a normal road, this technology will recapture energy normally lost.
Yes the technology requires some investment, and there is a question as to how long it would take to recover that investment through reduction in energy costs. Still the benefit to the environment and society would begin as soon as power is being generated by the plates. So one must ask is it worth the investment to reduce emissions now and in the future, even if the investment won't be repaid in $$ right away?
and thats okay zip55, its nice to see someone else on here who isn't completely crazy.
I think the concept should be applauded, even if only to highlight the possibilities for energy recapture. Nice comment, Old.Timer. While it may not be a perfect idea, and there are certainly efficiency issues, I wonder if the idea could be used in systems where there is vast energy wastage? Perhaps wind turbines near landing strips to take advantage of blowback, or something. I'm sure there are possibilities here.
Please explain HOW it racaptures energy normally lost, as you say.
From the diagram, in balloon number 2, the plates are pushed down by the weight of the vehicle. This means that the weight of the vehicle has to move over a distance to transmit energy (E=Force*distance), The vehicle either tries to climb the hump, forcing it down, thus using energy, or it would roll on to a level plate, which is forced down, and then has to climb back up on to its previous level, using the energy. Both cases rely on the car supplying energy for the plates, and more than would be required to roll over level ground.
If the blue humps in the picture are below some large plate, then the only way I could see it not costing the drivers any more enrgy than driving on asphalt is if the plate as a whole is attached to the ground on all sides, the motion of the blue humps is due to flexure of the top plate, and the flexure of the top plate is less than or equal to the flexure of an asphalt road.
Don't call everyone else crazy just because they are skeptics. Take the time to explain how you think it works, and then maybe they'll understand where you're coming from.
Okay bdhoro87, construct a 'pilot store' in a typical location and do a cost analysis study [1 year should do].
That should tell us if it's worth the effort or if it's just another exercise in eco-pandering.
And yeah, I know there's already a working model.
More sampling points means better analysis.
Normally you drive over asphalt, the weight of the car compresses the road, that energy is wasted. Instead of it being wasted, that compression is being used as a form of energy.
And Ironwolf thanks for the tip, thats exactly what I'm going to do to find out if this works I'll go build my own store and install this. I feel like i'm arguing with people with mental problems. How bout instead of building one I'll look at the one that's already in use?
regarding "NOOOO, this is not how it works. These plates will not create any more resistance on the car than any normal road. Using exactly the same amount of fuel as driving over a normal road, this technology will recapture energy normally lost."
You just invented perpetual motion, build a circular track of these generating plates, power a electric car via overhead gantry, run the car around in circles using power from the generating plates.
When a car travels over a bumpy road, or these generating plates, it is as you you say, the technology recaptures energy normally lost, but the car is not operating efficiently.
Yes, the plates recover energy normally lost, but don't these plates increase the loss of energy by the car? So why not then, make the plates so as to increase the loss of energy by the car to the maximum, then these generating plates will work close to maximum efficiency recovering the lost energy from the car.
Its better to make smoother roads, so to make cars run more efficiently.
Then, rather than these generating plates, with all its associated friction losses, and cost of maintenance, just burn some fuel in a high efficiency generator to get that 30kw.
Will the system even work with cars at highway speeds? And wouldn't then the system require lots more maintenance than if it was just in a car park?
Think about the same system, on a lighter scale in the Tokyo subway, you would personally shake the ground too, albeit you yourself are lighter than a car, but wouldn't you get tired very fast if the ground you walked on was soft, dropping slightly with each of your steps? Get tired because of increased expenditure of energy?
Yes, maybe there is some wasted energy to be recovered from a car driving on a road, even a number of cars, but the investment in recovering it, and the operating costs for the recovery equipment far out weigh the energy recovered.
Look at it from a national economy point of view, your country would be immensely better off to instead put the investment into improving your roads, so there are fewer bumps (to cause energy loss), resulting in both reducing importations of oil, and so also reducing carbon emissions.
Lots of people when thinking up energy saving ideas forget the first cost, which is the cost of the hardware. With solar the sun is free, and as solar is not mechanic system, solar is now becoming viable in that its hardware is dropping in price, but these generating plates IS a mechanical system, so needing constant maintenance, factor in the cost of labour for ever and ever, you don't gain anything, in fact, you lose even more than you started with.
If you think about it, money represents energy and materials expended, there are heaps better and more efficient ways to reduce energy use. (Recovery of wasted energy, is in effect, also the same as reducing use of energy.)
The picture with the article is representative only, nowhere does the article say how big the parking lot is, and whether the whole parking lot is covered in these plates, and how many cars it needs to generate 30Kw of energy per hour.
The key sentence in the article is "novel way of harnessing energy from their customer"
Nowhere does the article claim any savings in the UK economy's use of energy, nowhere does the article claim that the supermarket is better off energy wise overall, nowhere does it mention how much cash was invested in hardware to get 30kw of power per hour, or even the running (maintenance) costs per year, or even anything about the pay back period before there is any nett saving in costs to the supermarket, or in fact that there will ever be a saving.
So we come to the key word "novel", its a gimmick, to attract more customers into the store, and hopefully then the extra sales will pay for the system (plus make more profits for the shareholders), because the system will never pay for itself.
And will this supermarket still be in business in 6 months time, if it has not gone bust already?
The article does not even give an idea of where the supermarket is, so how do you know it even exists, and if it does, how do you know it has these generating plates? Supermarkets have to be so competitive to get market share, its unlikely it would be able to raise the investment funds to install this gimmick if it was just about the 30Kw energy per hour, less operating costs for the hardware. (costs include things like insurance too)
The other thing is, if you kept up with Popular Science (& PM) magazines over the the years, far too often you will see articles hyping up, **"this is the answer to all the world's problems"**, one such was the Wankel rotary engine that was to take over the world, and then what about nuclear power stations producing power too cheap to meter?
Forget it, this is just another foolish story, maybe the supermarket got mentioned on TV a few times so it gained market share, but otherwise, its a dead end idea.
"Think about the same system, on a lighter scale in the Tokyo subway, you would personally shake the ground too, albeit you yourself are lighter than a car, but wouldn't you get tired very fast if the ground you walked on was soft, dropping slightly with each of your steps? Get tired because of increased expenditure of energy?"
Old.timer you clearly just don't get how this works. Nobody makes the floor soft, it doesn't increase the energy you need to use to walk. Just like any normal floor shakes from the pressure of people walking on it, the subway floor captures that energy, no soft floors.
Why don't you just keeping making up reasons for things not to work, when they are indeed out there working.
so if the floor does not move downwards when you walk on it, please EXPLAIN how you recover any energy?
If the floor does not move downwards when you walk on it, how does it shake so you can recover energy?
What does the floor shake in relation to, seeing you need to connect it to a fixed point, in order to recover wasted energy from walking?
If you are right, how come we can not recover energy from the billions of people walking on this planet seeing the planet must be vibrating, or shaking?
Your "the weight of the car compresses the road" is in affect, the same as running a car on soft tires, so the car requires more energy to move.
And bdhoro87, please do not think anybody is saying you can not recover wasted energy this way, what we are all trying to tell you, is that there is no gain whatsoever, that in fact, there is a nett loss.
"When a car drives by, plates are depressed and the motion is passed along hydraulics"
What is your definition of "depressed" please?
Ok its not that the floor does not move downwards at all, but not by more than any other floor. Of course there is never an overall gain of energy (conservation of mass and energy) but energy that is normally wasted and turned into ambient heat, noise and vibration is recaptured and put to use. So its not that you gain energy, but energy that you normally don't use is now used.
"If you are right, how come we can not recover energy from the billions of people walking on this planet seeing the planet must be vibrating, or shaking?"
Now you're just getting ridiculously imaginative. You would need to build a pretty large one of these floors to cover the world if you wanna do that you crazy old man.
get a dictionary
bdhoro87, I was asking if you knew, the definition of "depressed" is in this discussions context "pushed down"
I got a better way of getting you to understand why this idea is no good.
Is it cost effective?
Would you invest your hard earned money in a system like this?
You lose more than you can ever gain.
From your photo, I estimate I might be 35-years older than you, way back, I was like you, but 35-years of experience later, nowadays every idea I come up with, for energy saving or producing, I give it the standard test,
Is it cost effective.
So, if you now see the light, I look forward to future discussions with you here, on other topics, certainly you will get the better of me sometimes.
See you, its 3-am here, got to sleep still.
Sheez you guys slow down.
Ok YES the road moves down and the car uses more energy to get back up again, but this happens with EVERY road so we might as well use this lost energy to power something.
But anyway your both right so lets please move on to a real problem.
To all of you saying that these will increase resistance to the cars passing over, causing them to use more fuel to drive over them..
1)its not as if you cant coast over bumps in the road. seeing as how you have a large amouont of mass it would take a sumbstantial amoutn of resistance to slow or stop a coasting car. its not going to happen in the 30 feet or so that this design uses.
2)even if that were the case, that a driver would have a significant increase in resistance, its pretty simple to get around. a slight downhill pitch, which youd have anyway as most parking garages at stores are underneath the stores, would combat this nicely..
3)in the rare case that it actually would be in-efficient, due to a hypethetical amount of resistance, you could just call it a speed bump, as most stores have those amyway.
withi thinking like some of the posters here, its no wonder no progress is ever made
I love how people seem to think they can read a news spot on a new technology and without much other info can presume to know all the details of how it works.
A simple question that wasnt answered in the article but everyone is arguing about , Does a car driving in the new parking lot use more gas than the same car does in a normal parking lot ?
A parking lot is by its very nature a huge waster of fuel to begin with . Whenever your in a parking lot your driving very slow or stopping alot waiting for a spot or for sombody to get out of your way all this stopping and starting wastes energy, the technology is capturing it instead of it being wasted. The article never stated how much the new tech costs and made no mention of a break-even point for seeing a return on the investment of the parking lot , but people still want to argue that they know .
Whatever , human nature I guess .
someone said something about "why dont they use these in floors where people walk"
tehre as a future city article on yere months back that did adress that. its not a bad idea.. it would be a logistical nightmare, tearing up all the old siddewalks.. but look at a place like NY, where you have a lot of foot traffic.. it seems almost insane for them not to do it.
I'm sorry I hate continuing these long arguments that are hardly relevant to the article but who are you asking if this is cost effective? Me?
Because I don't know, but the people who installed it will eventually find out. You seem to just assume that it is not cost effective. And even with your argument that this is stealing energy from the customers, wouldn't that make it more cost effective for the store? You keep saying "you lose more than you can ever gain" but that doesn't mean we shouldn't gain the energy back where possible while incurring the same amount of loss.
Oh and what did you think I meant that the plates get upset and in a bad mood?
Anyway, I don't know what light you're talking about, wisdom doesn't always come with age I guess.
Regarding Dan Smith's comment, "imagine packing roads with this technology and how much energy can be recollected from all the world’s drivers?"
Obviously you feel like this is a good idea. I tend to agree with the skeptics here. As the writer of this article, would you mind defending your position?
If you want some more information I just found an article here:
It pretty much says that they are using the plates as speed bumps, and that they should recover their costs within 2 years.