How A Piezoelectric System Will Soon Allow California Highways To Generate Electricity

Posted on: 28 December 2016

Cars traveling over roads have the potential to create a new source of energy by capturing wasted energy. The idea is to install piezoelectric generators under the surface of the road. As cars pass over the roads, the energy from the wheels pressing down on the road and the weight of the vehicle will activate the generators. The electricity from the generators will be captured and sent to batteries for storage. Officials believe that just a 10 mile stretch of a four-lane highway fitted with piezoelectric generators will produce enough electricity to power the entire city of Burbank, California. If you aren't familiar with piezoelectric generators, such as from nPoint, here is a brief overview of how a system can be built to capture the energy coming from vehicles and using it to help satisfy California's increasing demand for new energy sources.

The Secret is in the Crystals

Piezoelectric energy is produced by getting crystals excited. The crystals that can be used to generate the electricity include quartz, berlinite, and other solids where the atoms and molecules that make up the crystals are arranged in an orderly way and the electric charge in the crystal is evenly balanced. In essence, the crystals have a neutral electrical charge when they are in their natural state. However, when the crystals get pressed down, they become agitated and produce an electrical charge. That electrical charge can be captured and stored for later use.

Piezoelectric Generators

The first piezoelectric generators for highway use were put into service in Israel in 2009. Cushions that look like air beds are filled with crystals. The beds are placed about 2 1/2 inches under the surface of the road and are placed about 12 inches apart from each other. The beds are connected with electrical wiring. When a car drives over the beds, the crystals are pressed down and release energy. The crystals keep on releasing energy until they come to a rest. When another car drives over a bed, the process begins all over again. The more cars that drive over the beds the more energy is produced.


The energy created by the crystal beds are sent to batteries placed near the highway. The energy is then transferred from the batteries to the local electrical grid and can be used to power homes, lights, and everything else the regular power grid powers.

The end result is that the energy produced by the cars that are normally lost while driving over a highway is instead captured and reused to help satisfy California's need for more electricity.