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Jul 102009

By Ashley Phillips
Green Right Now

Peter Hughes of Highway Energy Systems Ltd. is an electrical and mechanical engineer responsible for many sustainable technological innovations.  He spent years as an environmental consultant to the United Nations. Hughes developed ways to use solar-powered cooking at night for third world countries, and ways to force water into arid climates.

But none of his accomplishments is as impressive as his most recent innovation. The electro-kinetic road ramp, or as he refers to it, his “prized jewel in the crown,” is already making an impact in the UK and will soon be coming to the United States.

In development for six years, this new technology was installed last month at a Sainsbury, a UK grocery store chain in Gloucester. The electro kinetic road ramp was placed in the store’s parking lot, where energy generated from the weight of the cars traveling over the plates is being used to completely power all the registers in the store.

The company says that in normal traffic conditions, the ramps will produce 30kWh of energy.

“The power ramps do not use any gas from the motorists’ tank and this has been scientifically proven. We are simply using the kinetic energy and braking effect that would otherwise be wasted,” said Hughes.

Many applications for the road ramps are emerging. They have developed ways to power street and traffic lights, and even heat roads in the winter to prevent ice from forming. Other innovative applications include using the ramps to operate toll booths and ventilate tunnels to reduce pollution.

For many of us, the installation of such devices creates fears of long months of construction that disrupt traffic. But, depending on the terrain, installation actually only takes a few hours.  And if a ramp stops producing energy; it does not become a hazard to traffic. The ramp can simply be switched out with a new functioning ramp in about 20 minutes, according to Hughes.

And it may not be long before you could be driving over one of these ramps.

“We expect to have appointed distributors who will also be responsible for installations and maintenance within the USA and Canada within the next 6 to 8 months,” said Hughes. While he did not specify which companies he has been negotiating with, there has been a lot of interest in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, as well as some of the U.S. ports.

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