Leighton Buzzard train station is trialling kinetic floor tiles that convert footsteps into electricity in a pilot by startup Pavegen and Central Bedfordshire Council.
Funded by the Department of Transport’s £22.9m ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs Programme, the project will test how well energy-generating walkways – as a green off-grid source of electricity – can power specific or bespoke applications.
Initially powering two USB charging benches and a digital data screen at the station, the tech eventually could be used to power nearby highway assets, and the teams behind the project hope other transport hubs will adopt similar innovations. For Pavegen, Leighton Buzzard will act as a proof of concept for future projects in the UK and beyond.
One thing the trial will have to show is the amount of electricity it can generate, which is still unclear because of the pandemic.
However, Pavegen said the value of the project goes “way beyond” energy. The startup is also developing a mobile app to introduce rewards to passengers as a way for transport hubs to encourage footfall and get people back to retail, leisure and hospitality within the UK’s train stations.
Laurence Kemball-Cook, CEO of Pavegen, said: “Pavegen is very proud to be part of this pilot project. We are excited at the prospect of helping to drive a national rollout to create a greener, more sustainable transport network for the UK. Pavegen engages and inspires communities while highlighting the benefits of sustainability in a memorable and interactive way.”
Giles Perkins, programme director for Live Labs, added: “The untapped footfall energy at our transport hubs represents a real opportunity to provide sustainable energy sources to power bespoke applications while engaging audiences and encouraging behavioural change.
“The trial will help demonstrate the viability of the technology and could be a step change in the way transport hubs engage with commuters.”
Central Bedfordshire Council will work with Cranfield University to analyse the data from the pilot to measure the success of the trials and determine its potential for further rollouts.
The Leighton Buzzard project is one of eight local authority-led Live Labs aiming to transform local places and highways by piloting innovation across energy, data, materials and mobility.
Each local authority is running several projects throughout a two-year period ending November 2021.
Some of these include Buckinghamshire Council working with Lancaster University to develop a kinetic energy road to generate energy from vehicles and Reading Borough Council developing cloud-based energy management platforms for council assets.
A report about the first year of the two-year programme is available here.