Can a fast food drive-thru lane actually provide clean green electricity?
A company called New Energy Technologies is betting on it.
The firm has developed a prototype device it's now testing at a Burger King in Hillside, New Jersey.
The "Motion Power Energy Harvester" is designed to capture kinetic energy from vehicles that would otherwise be lost when drivers hit the brakes to pick up their Whoppers.
It looks like a flattened speed bump with long pedals across the top that press down when tires roll over them. That force turns gears inside, generating 2000 watts of electricity instantaneously, according to the engineers who designed it.
The trick is collecting that energy and distributing it in a cost-effective way.
Engineer Jerry Lynch from Sigma Design was handed the concept and tasked with creating the prototype, explaining the final version will involve more bumps and more pedals to create more juice.
If this is multiplied by ten times the length and we have 100,000 or 150,000 cars a year the device will pay back in less than two years," Lynch estimates.
Lynch says this isn't a "green wash", meaning that they are stealing energy from one source to give to another, because the vehicles need to slow down anyway.
Company President Meetesh Patel says Motion Power devices could be effectively used in any number of high traffic areas including shopping centers, intersections, rest areas, border crossings, and toll plazas but admits any use on public roads would require negotiations with local governments and highway departments.
"We're creating a new industry and if we're first to market with this thing we definitely will be at the top of the wave," Patel says.
No one is suggesting the device in the drive-thru lane would provide enough power to run the restaurant, including franchise owner Drew Paterno, but he jumped at the offer to install the prototype at his location on Route 22, and says he'd consider placing an order for a dozen of them.
"If the thing works and it does what we think it will do," Drew says, "we'd be interested in installing it in all our locations."
That won't be possible until the Motion Power device is ready for market, which Patel says could happen sometime next year.
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