Power Underfoot

Solar Road

Paved roads and sidewalks are, generally speaking, intended to be among the more mundane and reliable inventions in modern life. Built to be solid, simple, and easily repaired, they’re meant to be a straightforward means of getting from one place to another with little to no obstacles or impediments. The trouble is, American roads — once the forefront of automotive mediums — have fallen into disrepair. The American Society of Civil Engineers, the United States’ oldest national engineering society, gave American roads a grade of “D” in 2013. In the same report, they noted the Federal Highway Administration’s estimate that $170 billion in annual capital investments would be needed to achieve a marked improvement. With plummeting quality, changing infrastructure needs, and automobile technology moving away from fossil fuels, the question arises: should taxpayer funds be spent restoring roads to their former functionality, or toward a whole new mode?

Innovation-minded entrepreneurs argue the latter, and they’re putting their money and research where their mouths are. One such case involves start-up company Pavegen. Founded in 2009, the company has crowdfunded over $2.5 million for its signature technological development: sidewalk tiles that absorb the kinetic energy of pedestrian footsteps. Pavegen boasts that a network of these devices would harvest potential energy that would otherwise go unused, powering everything from advertising displays, street lights, traffic signals, or even electric vehicles. On that last note, the company has partnered with Tesla to experiment with car charging. While a few steps wouldn’t move a Model S very far, implementing a wide array of tiles in a major urban area could yield impressive results.

Solar Roadways is the product of another successful crowdfunding venture, and intends to apply renewable energy collection to streets rather than sidewalks. The technology consists of glass-topped hexagonal tiles, each one absorbing solar energy. And while part of that energy would be returned to the grid, a lot of it would go toward improving the driving experience as well. Although the project is still in development, the minds behind it claim that each tile would be capable of heating up enough to disperse snow and ice, emitting customizable LED road markings and traffic warnings, and funneling off water deposits. And like Pavegen’s project, Solar Roadways hope to contribute to electric vehicle charging as well.

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About DevonJ140
I am currently an Accounting Director living in New York City. I love reading and learning more about business, finance, tech, and current events.

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