Landmark Legislation to Capture Roadside Energy (With Video)

Hybrid vehicles capture the energy lost while slowing down a vehicle and use that energy to power the car independently from the engine for significant stretches of time. But what if we could capture the energy lost as all automobiles move along a stretch of pavement and place that power into the electrical grid? Bill AB 306, introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) that can do just that, passed 6-1 in the California State Assembly's Natural Resources Committee this week. It will move to the Assembly Transportation Committee for voting next week.

This bill would require the Energy Commission to conduct research on the feasibility of generating electricity using piezoelectric transducers under major roadways as a renewable resource, by collaborating with the Department of Transportation to establish a pilot project that would employ piezo-based energy harvesting technology. The bill would allow the Energy Commission to expend the moneys in the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Fund, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to implement this research as part of the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program.

The technology, called “piezoelectric generation,” can produce as much as 44 megawatts of electricity per year from one single-lane, one-kilometer stretch of roadway — enough to power 30,800 homes for a year. The science works as follows: when a car or truck passes over pavement, the pavement vibrates ever so slightly. By placing relatively inexpensive piezoelectric sensors underneath a road, the vibrations produced by vehicles can be converted into electricity, which can be used to power roadside lights, call boxes and neighboring communities. Identical technology has already been placed underneath highways in Israel, and Italy has signed a contract to place the technology under a stretch of the Venice-to-Trieste Autostrada. The technology can be placed under asphalt during regularly scheduled repaving, and does not affect the vehicles traveling on the road, in terms of “road feel,” fuel efficiency or emissions.