Electro-kinetic Road Ramps

The Naked Scientists spoke to Peter Hughes, Director of Hughes Research Ltd.
04 June 2006

Interview with 

Peter Hughes, Director of Hughes Research Ltd.


Chris - Someone who's got a very interesting development up his sleeve is Peter Hughes. Thank you for joining us on the programme. Can you tell us about your invention?

Peter - Yes, it's very straight-forward and simple invention. It consists of a number of articulating plates that fit in the road, and when a vehicle passes over them, it causes a mechanism to rotate that in turn rotates a generator that produces electricity.

Chris - How much electricity?

Peter - It depends upon the weight of traffic, the number of vehicles and their comparative weight, but we're talking in the order of between 5 kilowatt hours and anything up to 50 kilowatt hours.

Chris - Well that's more than enough to run a set of street lights isn't it?

Peter - Almost certainly yes. It would run several small houses or alternatively it would run a lengthy section of the highway.

Chris - Now the obvious thing here is that traffic isn't going to be running over this continuously, so how do you soak up the extra energy the cars produce in order to release it in a gentle fashion for street lighting and housing?

Peter - We charge storage batteries during the periods when we have very heavy traffic flow. When the traffic is light, we then use the storage battery facility to continue to power the lights.

Chris - What's the payback period on this? Obviously it's very easy to lump down a bit of concrete to create a speed control measure that everyone hates, and in fact we know that pollution goes up in the areas where these things are as people bounce over them and then accelerate. Your thing is obviously very complicated to plumb in and build, I presume. So how long does it have run for before it's paid for itself?

Peter - It's between three and three and a half years and thereafter your energy is absolutely free.

Chris - That sounds fantastic. So when is it going to be run out?

Peter - We're rolling them out at the moment. We have enquiries from all over the world, including a very large number from the United States and Canada, but many other countries too. We're starting to manufacture them as of now.

Chris - Have you got a contract from Cambridge yet as I think we need one!

Peter - Well hopefully that will come in due course.

Chris - So how much does each one cost to build?

Peter - We have a modularised system, so for example if you wan to power a set of traffic lights, then you need a quite small unit. Or you can power up to four traffic lights at a junction and there we're talking in the order of about £15 000. If you want to do far greater energy generation, then you can add modules on as you require them.

Chris - And what about maintenance and the service lifetime? Do they clap out after ten cars? Presumably not.

Peter - No, I think it's reasonable to say that we reckon that the life span of this device will be about ten years. It depends of course on the level of traffic and weather conditions and many other things. But we reckon about ten years because most of the components used in this device have been tested in other applications over many many years. They've shown themselves to have very long lives indeed.

Chris - Thanks Peter. That was Peter Hughes who's invented an electro-kinetic road ramp that we should see rolling out in the UK in the near future.


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