back to article Hot-air powered railway to harvest energy from cars

An American architect has come up with a scheme, now picked up on Slashdot, to harvest the wind generated by fast-moving motor vehicles and use it to power a light-rail network running alongside the highway. The idea is that sections of dividing barriers would be replaced by rows of Darius turbines, which would whirl in the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bit of Light Relief

    ""The technical problems of tying into the grid and managing the flow made me think of putting the power to a different use."

    Wouldn't the obvious use for that energy be to charge batteries that power the street lights at night?

    Subject to it being cheaper to implement and/or more predictable than solar cells, that is.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong way round

    Yes, that wind is wasted energy, but the trick is not to harvest it, but to eliminate it.

    Have you ever seen the "Superfast" twin-hulled car ferry? Catamarans are quicker and more efficient than single-hulled vessels because the opposing lateral forces of the displaced water between the hulls cancel out, the forces being converted to additional forward thrust.

    So what we really need to do is scrap all these inefficient single-hull cars, omnibuses and locomotives and create new super-efficient "catamobiles", "catabuses" and "catamotives".

    Of course this would mean a completely new road and rail infrastructure, and street widening would mean demolishing half of our urban buildings, but that's a small price to pay for improved fuel economy, isn't it?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can see Houston rush-hour from my window...

    The only air movement out there is from sighs of exasperation and plenty of violent cursing. I laugh as I ride my bicycle along the sidewalk, passing cars on both the service road and the highway... (the only reason to ride a bike to work in Houston is to pass cars)

    Now, if you could convert the hot air from overheated, idling engines into electricity, you might be on to something...

  4. David Willis

    A bit of Light Relief

    I suppose at peak times you'd have the satisfaction of sitting in an adjacent queue of traffic as the people on the light rail system. After all stationary vehicles produce little wind, therefore little electricity to make the train go. An incentive to make the roads work?

  5. Steve Evans

    Think a bit more...

    Lots of mechanical devices, all along the motorway/freeway.

    What do mechanical devices do?

    Yup, you got it...

    Cue (or should that be queue!) more roadworks to fix the whizzy things!

    Having said that, I love the idea, if only for the day a future Gordon Brown has to price people back onto the roads to power the trains!

  6. Nick

    Let's hope so

    "Drivers, noticing the new light-rail line, might start leaving their cars at home and so rob the new infrastructure of power"

    Yes, please. After all, mass transit is easier on the environment than individual autos--even if connected to the grid.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Want to save the enviroment and fuel?

    Avoid travelling at all, live closer to work, walk or cycle - most of us have brillant built in locomotion which we seem unwilling to use.

    I think the end of humanity would be the best thing for the enviroment or perhaps failing that end of economics as the primary means of decision making.

  9. John Browne

    That's no way to run a railroad.

    They can't even spell the name of the turbine right; it's Darreius, after George J Darreius who invented it in the 1930s.

    There's so much wrong with this, I hardly know where to begin.

    First, the Darreius turbine is not self-starting, so is the worst type to use when the wind is intermittent, as in traffic. The Savonius type would be the cheapest usable alternative. Those annoying rotating signs work roughly that way.

    Second, the way it's shown in the magazine, it would replace the crash barriers and could turn a fender bender into a pileup. Even without a pileup, the repeated damage to turbines would make the system prohibitively expensive, unreliable and difficult to maintain.

    Third, even a modest 2 car light train needs at least 150 kilowatts for a quick getaway from a station, and there's no way those turbines could do that. A backup energy store or a connection to the power grid would be essential. Better designed and located located wind turbines can assist the grid.

    That's it. The article already demolished the other foolishness.

  10. Phil

    Ah yes, good old buses

    Yes why not dedicate a whole lane to buses? You're right they are much more efficient, I see them all the time on the M4 literally packed with 3 people, belching out smoke as they force their brick-like shape through the air.

    If I caught one of these enviromental beauties to work, it would only take 2.5 hours instead of 25 minutes. And I would only have to change twice. Bliss!

    Sorry guys but their is only one way forward. How do you get more water through the same diameter pipe?

  11. Neil Drinkall

    Why need the cars?

    Surely this could be taken a step further, and it could self-perpetuate the energy, by putting the turbines alongside the rail track instead, and it could use it's OWN wind to power itself!


  12. Daniel Ballado-Torres

    Rush hour

    Hm... now I'm from Mexico City. There's a *reason* I prefer subway transportation over everything else.

    I just have to look outside my office building; the Cirquito Interior (Inner Ring) highway runs right outside this bldg. And its average speed on rush hour must be something like 30 km/h. Or less.

    And I wouldn't even mention the Periferico beltway on the nothern side, where sometimes we joke that its a 60 minutes/km highway.

    Maybe if they took the Monsters Inc. approach ... make energy from swearing and that will be enough to power even a 9-car maglev system ;)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "I think the end of humanity would be the best thing for the enviroment or perhaps failing that end of economics as the primary means of decision making."

    There's no such thing as a "good" thing for the environment if there are no humans. Something being good is an entirely human concept.

    You can't even call the environment particularly natural, as the most common state of matter in nature is to be completely devoid of life. Most planets, stars etc have no life forms whatsoever on or in them.

    As for wanting to get rid of economics, that's just blaming the messenger. Economics is a neutral intellectual tool, just like science or maths, there's no such thing as a pro-economic or anti-economic policy because policy depends entirely on human sets of priorities, not economic methods.

    If a group is environmentally minded, it will use economics to work out the most effective way of saving the environment. If instead it's short term profit minded, it will use economics to work out the most effective way of making money. Their goals come from a different source to their methods.

  14. Andrew Tyler

    Hidden Agenda?

    Sometimes I wonder if some of these blatantly ridiculous ideas getting published isn't just a subtle ruse to discredit the field of 'green engineering,' or whatever it's called.

    I've got a ton of stupid ideas. Maybe I should look into applying for a grant to help spread them around.

  15. peter

    It's all in the shape

    You can get a human powered bycicle over 80mph, through streamlining with no other vehicles involved.

    Why not streamline cars for highway use and put a giant gyroscope and very thin tyres on them. That way rolling friction would be lowered and i could have a gyroscopic car with a teardrop shape.

    Don't fear the gyroscope

  16. Steve

    The energy used to build these turbines....

    ....would likely exceed the pitiful amount derived from the passing traffic!

    Then there's the risk of component failure (relatively high given these are power mechanical devices) and the regular maintenance, both needing human intervention - itself 'costly'.


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