Highway to heat

For an energy source that essentially requires thousands of CO2-emitting vehicles to produce anything, it would be a stretch to describe it as clean energy. Yet in California, the State Energy Commission has invested $2 million into a programme to study the feasibility of producing energy from road traffic.

Based on technology trialled in Israel and Italy by Israeli firm Innowattech, piezoelectric crystals installed under roads can be used to harness electricity from the vibrations of cars driving over them and can then send the electricity back to the grid.

It almost sounds too good to be true. In fact, it may well be. The projects tested by Innowattech were later dropped in both countries and the company is now going through liquidation.

Mike Gatto, a Californian congressman inspired by Innowattech and who has previously attempted to implement the technology in California, remains defiant it can work.

“Thirty years ago, no one would have believed that black silicon panels in the desert could generate solar power,” says Gatto. “Piezoelectric technology is real, and I am glad the state has finally acknowledged its potential in becoming an energy source.”

Here’s to that moonshot!