Getting energy from car traffic on the roads: why not? It was a young electrical engineer who thought about it, Andrea Pirisi, which he thus invented LYBRA, a device capable of transforming the kinetic energy developed by slowing vehicles into electricity, thus also offsetting the CO2 produced by traffic.
Co-founder of Underground Power UP, Pirisi coordinates a team that knows how to integrate the academic support ofPolitecnico di Milano with the experience of industrial partners of excellence and looking ahead. LYBRA, in fact, will also change the face, and energy savings, of street lighting and motorway toll booths. .
1) What is Lybra and what is it for? Can you quantify the energy produced?
LYBRA is a modular device 10 cm high, 3 meters wide and 1 meter long, which can be installed in deceleration zones to absorb the kinetic energy of cars and transform it into electricity: it is therefore possible to offset the CO2 produced by traffic with the traffic itself. A ten-module system at an average traffic roundabout LYBRA it would produce 100,000 kWh per year, about the energy consumed by 40 families. To produce the same amount of energy with an average photovoltaic system, an 80 kW park with an area of over 800 square meters would be needed.
In general, every time a car slows down, it disperses what is considered a small amount if taken individually, but if we consider an intersection or a roundabout with average traffic, the amount reaches more than 500,000 kWh per year. This is energy that is wasted entirely in heat and exhaust gas at each STOP.
2) How did you get the idea? What technologies and materials did you use to make LYBRA? How much?
In 2008 we were working on a project for generation of electricity from marine waves, using the oscillatory motion of the buoys due to the passage of the wave. One evening, at the bar with friends, we realized that our technology could also be applied to road traffic, with lower costs and greater design simplicity. And so we reset the business plan and started over, with a new application.
Lybra it is made of materials suitable for supporting a load of 60 tons per axle, 6 times over the legal limit. The external coating is made of recycled rubber obtained from ELT powder (out of use tire), which increases its natural characteristic "green”As well as ensuring maximum road grip and, therefore, maximum safety for both cars and pedestrians.
A module costs around € 7,500, to which must be added the plant engineering and installation works. On balance, a 10-module system costs about € 90,000 turnkey and pays for itself in 5-6 years if it is installed in an area of medium traffic deceleration, such as access to a roundabout or 30 meters before an intersection .
3) How did you get the reduction in maintenance costs? And a high efficiency?
Thanks to our technology, which has been patented precisely for its unique characteristics. We have made sure to drastically avoid the use of components that could be subject to rapid wear or easy breakage. The right choice of materials and industrial partners then did the rest.
4) Can LYBRA be used in the logistics sector? With what advantages?
When the car passes over the device, its inertia compresses the surface, transferring part of its kinetic energy to the generation system patented by UP. The collected energy is then transformed into electricity and stored in a battery pack, which can be associated with a common photovoltaic inverter to connect the system to a local electricity grid. In this way it is possible to consume the energy produced on site and have a significant and sudden reduction in electricity consumption.
5) And in public lighting? How would it actually work? Have you already proposed it to any municipality?
Thanks to its low height, it is possible to install LYBRA directly on the asphalt, like a normal bollard, or so that it is at the same level as the road, thanks to a 10 cm deep excavation made with a cutter. Since the electrical output is identical to that of a photovoltaic system, it is also possible to use the energy produced to power the street lamps and traffic lights. Several municipalities have shown interest in participating in a pilot project to test the effectiveness of our technology. We are currently starting to plan the first commercial installations and we believe we will be ready to face the market after June 2013.
6) Can you tell us about the project linked to the motorway toll booths? How much energy could you get?
In the 2010 financial statements, the company Milano Serravalle S.p.A. stated that at the Melegnano tollbooth (South Milan), at the Telepass toll booths alone, there is an average daily transit of 400,000 vehicles. By installing our systems in the access lanes, therefore 50 meters before the barrier, it would be possible to produce up to 6 million kWh per year, equal to the energy produced by a 5MW photovoltaic system, which would have an area of 44,000 square meters.
7) What is the future of LYBRA: improvements? New applications? New market frontiers?
The final phase of certifications and tests is expected in the coming months. In spring LYBRA it will be ready for its first commercial application in a pilot project we are working on. The commercial phase for application on urban roads will begin after June.
Our technical department is following these phases with almost surgical attention, noting any possible changes to reduce costs and increase performance. We are very proud of our team.