The research project, led by Professor Mohamed Saafi (above), will design and optimise energy recovery of around one to two megawatts per kilometre under ‘normal’ traffic volumes — which is around 2,000 to 3,000 cars an hour. This would generate enough power for around 3,000 street lamps.
It currently costs around 15p a kilowatt hour to power a street lamp, costing between £1,800 and £3,600 per day. Researchers say the cost of installing and operating new road energy harvesting technology would be around 20 per cent of this cost.
The design is part of the €4m SAFERUP (Sustainable, Accessible, Safe, Resilient and Smart Urban Pavements) programme in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 fund and is led by the University of Bologna.
“This research is about helping to produce the next generation of smart road surfaces,” said Prof Saafi. “We will be developing new materials to take advantage of the piezoelectric effect where passing vehicles cause stress on the road surface, producing voltage. The materials will need to withstand high strengths, and provide a good balance between cost and the energy they produce. The system we develop will then convert this mechanical energy into electric energy to power things such as street lamps, traffic lights and electric car charging points. It could also be used to provide other smart street benefits, such as real-time traffic volume monitoring.”
When the technology has been developed it will undergo field trials in the UK and other areas of the EU.
Partners on the SAFERUP project include TU Wien, Austria, Università degli Studi di Perugia, Italy, University of Nottingham, UK, University of Cantabria, Spain, French Institute of Sciences and Transport Technologies, France, Coventry University, UK, University College London, UK, Lancaster University, UK, Universitaet Innsbruck, Austria, Celu Eksperts, Latvia, Durth Roos Consulting GmbH, Germany and SAPABA in Italy.