What is kinetic pavement?

28 February 2018 | OVO Energy

London-based startup Pavegen has developed a special energy-harvesting tile – made from 95% recycled tyres – that flexes by 5mm when stepped on, resulting in up to 8 watts of kinetic energy over the duration of the footstep. Every step is good for about 3 joules of energy, which could light a LED streetlamp for 30 seconds. Enough tiles and enough footsteps can create enough energy to be stored in batteries, or help power electrical items.

Each tile boasts unique wireless communications technology too. It uses only 1% of its power to transmit data about the number of footfalls and energy generated. This means city officials and business types can see how many people are passing through an area, and then make smart decisions about the way the extra power is used.

Dubbed the ‘world’s first smart street’, the tiles now power London’s Bird Street – aptly providing birdsong by day, and light at night. The paving here sports a new triangular tile, providing 20 times more power than Pavegen’s early versions.

The tech has already appeared at some pretty big events – Pavegen partnered up with Google for Berlin’s 2017 Festival of Lights, creating an installation to convert footsteps into off-grid energy. The effect was a synchronised lighting display across a record-breaking 26-square metres. The footfall lit up 176 light panels embedded in its walls and generated over 100,000 joules of energy within the first 3 days.

And 12 tiles were installed along the walking route to the Olympic Park in 2012. Pavegen estimated over the course of the Games the tiles harvested energy from more than 12m footsteps, generating 72m joules of energy – enough to charge 10,000 mobile phones for an hour! The electricity was put to more communally beneficial use though, powering the lights in nearby West Ham tube station for 5 hours each night.

The tiles were also installed over a 25-metre distance at the start point of the Paris Marathon, as well as other key points en route. During the race, runners and bystanders generated nearly 5 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power a laptop for 52 hours, drive an electric car for 15 miles or light up a village in a developing nation for an entire day.

Ultimately, Pavegen hopes to make the tiles as affordable as regular floor tiles, and see them installed in offices, schools and public spaces around the world. The technology has come under some criticism because, well, it’s not as powerful as conventional electricity sources. The average person will walk 150 million steps in their lifetime, so in theory, that’s only enough to power the average family home for 3 weeks. But...combine all the steps of all the people on the planet, and we’re talking about a serious contribution to sustainable energy.