Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

California studies how to convert road vibrations from cars to usable energy

Did you know that it is possible to convert road vibrations into electric energy? And better yet, we might soon be using this technology throughout the state? Meet AB 306, a measure requiring California to study the use of piezoelectric transducers, a new technology than can convert road vibrations from cars and trucks into usable electrical energy. Soon AB 306 may be coming to a road near you.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) of the 43rd District sponsored the measure. As Gatto explains, “The power can be stored and used to power lights, signs, call boxes, electric vehicles, and perhaps even homes within a few miles of the freeway.” Recently, Gatto’s bill passed the California State Legislature by a bipartisan vote of 46-17. It’s gone to Governor Jerry Brown for review.

So just how does the science behind California AB 306 work? Energy is created through a process requiring the use of piezoelectric transducers placed under roadways. These transmitters convert the road vibrations into energy. (You can read more about its exact science here.) It’s already used in Japan, where the East Japan Railway Company converts the vibrations from people walking on its platforms to power its signs. Israel and Italy use or plan to use the technology. 

If Governor Brown signs the bill, it will require the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to collaborate with the Department of Transportation to conduct the study. The findings will be reported in 2013.

Image: neilarmstrong2/Flickr