For most of human history, we’ve been wasting energy we didn’t even know we could harness: the sun’s rays, wind, geothermal heat. But now, new technology is proving that we were wasting another resource, too – our own footsteps.
“Kinetic energy” can, it turns out, be collected by installing pressure pads under pavements. When pedestrians step on them, the force pushes fluid through mini-turbines, which generate electricity. The technology was used during the London Olympics; now a US company has developed a public phone charging station that uses a combination of solar power and footfall energy.
The “EnGo” stations will offer a collection of common chargers, and can charge 14 phones at the same time. Other, similar stations are already operating elsewhere (such as these solar-powered bench chargers in Boston), but these are the first to use kinetic energy.
Promotional images show phone users cheerfully hanging out near the station, though it will be slightly annoying that you can’t leave phones charging in a locker. To stave off boredom, the station will also feature a large advertising screen, and the idea is that they will pay for themselves (and the kinetic tiles under the pavement) through ad revenue.
The first model has been installed in St. Louis, and there are plans to install 100 more in the US in the next six months. Volta, the company which designed the stations, is also looking into kinetic energy-powered streetlights.
Peter Mirovic, the company’s CEO, says the kinetic pads are an ideal way to capture the "waste of footsteps" in large cities. How irresponsible we’ve been.