Electric pavements might offer us a way to save the world, without really changing much!
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image Jonas McIlwain
words Rhys Thomas
“Hey, I’m walkin’ here!” A grumpy short man in a bowler hat might say in a television episode set in New York. He says that and then does that passive aggressive walk people do, you know? Stomp stomp stomp, slamming doors but with your shoes on the ground? That’s the one. And of course we might hope they can get some rest and relaxation into their day. To stop all the stomping about. But additionally, we could one day all be stomping around like that, and it might not be out of anger, but to make the world a better place.
Let’s replay the scene but in the future. “Hey, I’m walkin’ here! Because I’m trying to generate as much electricity as possible on my way into work, it’s my New Year Resolution!” The man says, as he keeps stomping away. We ask “how does that work?” He says “this is an electric pavement! It generates electricity when we walk on it.” You say “amazing! Let’s skip to work together” and a beautiful new friendship is formed.
He would technically say "sidewalk", but that’s not why you’re reading this, is it? No, you’re here because you want to know…
What’s so special about this electric pavement thing?
Well what it would mean is, as with that piece of fiction above, we could walk on a pavement that could generate electricity from our very footsteps. This would be sustainable, because the energy used up is just the energy of us walking or pogo-sticking or whatevering on top of the surface. Which we generally do all the time anyway. The pavement is there, why not use it to save the world?
Woah, that's a good point. How did we invent electric pavements?
Pavegen made a pavement which turned footsteps into electricity all the way back in 2017. The way it works is, someone steps on the tile. The weight causes an electromagnet to move underneath the pavement and the movement essentially sets underground mechanisms spin which funnel the power of our plods into something useful - not too unlike what a windmill does to harness power.
That’s not all the electric pavement can do, though. These smart pavements are able to provide and capture data on things like "peak footfall times" and have the ability to store that energy until it is needed. Of course, because life is all about apps, there is also potential for a reward system to be used where people can use an app to log their steps, and receive points or vouchers for the walking.
How will this save the world?
Imagine if every bit of pavement in the world was an electric one. Our carbon footprint would literally be reduced with every step we took. It might not make enough electricity to end non-renewable energy immediately - one step can light a LED light for about 20 seconds - but it would certainly help. It might even provide us with an incentive to walk a little more, which is good for us and the planet generally!
How can I get involved?
Go to Telford, it’s a town in Shropshire. If you’re nearby! Why? There’s an electric pavement there! Have a walk on the IRL electric pavement (it’s quite bouncy, apparently) and see how easy it is to generate power. You can also reap the rewards by charging your phone on a nearby bench, powered by the pavement.
As well as that, you can always tell your mates about the idea of electric pavements and other ways to save the world. Knowledge is power, after all!