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U of I at Chicago team to optimize new traffic-powered source of electricity

The Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department of the University of Illinois at Chicago has entered into an agreement with New Energy Innovations, Inc. (NEI), to optimize New Energy Innovations’ TPRES (Traffic Powered Renewable Energy System), a new traffic-powered source of electricity that can be deployed at intersections, municipalities, airport entrances, toll booths, as well as entrance and exit ramps.

Traffic Powered Renewable Energy System (TPRES), powered by vehicles driving over cylinder shown. Click to enlarge.

The concept entails the embedding of a series of air pumps in the road. Each time a car passes over them, all of them depress at once and forcing a spurt of air through a series of tubes. The air continues through the tubes and into a holding tank where it’s compressed and then released as a constant stream of air into an air motor/turbine which turns the fan belt on the generator/alternator and produces electricity. Since the cylinders are pumping air, the resistance of the device to the vehicle running over it is minimal, NEI says.

The University of Illinois at Chicago Senior Mechanical Engineering and Design Team will be working on optimizing the best mechanical system.

New Energy Innovations is a privately held corporation. Crowd funding efforts begin this spring with the intent to be manufacturing the TPRES for installation by summer at Classic Sheet Metal, Inc., a sheet metal fabrication and assembly company in Franklin Park, IL. Agreements are in place with WT Engineering in Hoffman Estates, IL to provide additional civil engineering expertise and surveys needed for installations to take place.



This will increase vehicle rolling resistance, increasing fuel consumption.  This is especially true for hybrids which would otherwise recover their own braking energy for themselves.  The net effect will be to substitute expensive petroleum for cheaper, domestic energy supplies.

It's a good thing that such devices are likely to break down quickly and be abandoned.

Nick Lyons

I guess this might make some kind of sense if installed only in locations where cars are always braking--off ramps, approaching stop signs or toll booths, etc. That way, some of the energy normally wasted in heating up the vehicle's brakes is instead transferred to this system. It does seem like a lot of capital investment for trivial return, however.


Could work for stand alone options as not being near to any power grid. Main problem would be impact sound.


I am sure that this would serve in lieu of expansion joints and drain trap gratings at tunnels and bridges, which are built to be revenue producers anyway, so they would now produce scads of electricity as well. They may also be useful in estimating axle loads and tire inflation with a fair degree of accuracy, which could move tolls to a vehicle weight basis, rather than a per axle basis. In any case, any problems in gauging brake effects on the first axle can be compensated on the successive axle, to keep the ride smooth. This is similar to balancing bump effects on the front tires by balancing inflation on all tires, so why isn't that technology promoted more?

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