back to article Pavegen: The Company that can't make energy out of crowds tries to make money out of them

A company selling floor tiles which extract tiny, pointless amounts of energy from crowds walking across them is seeking fresh investment through the medium of crowdfunding. The company in question is Pavegen, which we've covered before. The firm is the brainchild of Laurence Kemball-Cook, who describes himself in a press …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    7 watts, or even somewhat less...

    ... would probably be enough for some minimal LED lighting for dark spaces without otherwise reliable light or power.

    But, I suppose, wildly over-promising pulls in the more "optimistic" investors rather better?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 7 watts, or even somewhat less...

      Interestingly, I've come across a test-of-concept video showing essentially that.

      It's an outdoor version of these tiles that provide lighting to dark places as the user walks over them.

      Here it is:-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi_XLOBDo_Y

  2. IanDs

    This is in the same idiotic league as "look how much energy the country would save by unplugging all those phone chargers when they're not being used". It looks impressive in kWh but -- as McKay says -- adding a lot of minute numbers together still makes a tiny number compared to real energy usage.

    Anybody proposing *anything* like this should be forced to read "Sustainable Energy -- Without the Hot Air" and pass an exam on the contents before they're allowed to spout technobabble on energy generation/consumption.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      http://www.withouthotair.com/

      Marvellous Mackay reference, thank you. He's not perfect, nor is the book, better suggestions welcome, but for now it's the best there is as a starting point based on facts, numbers, and scientific logic.

      And for those who've forgotten how to use a search engine: the book is freely downloadable via

      http://www.withouthotair.com/

  3. Mike Shepherd
    Meh

    Even if...

    Even if you converted every footpath in the country, the unpleasant experience of walking on a spongy (or constantly clicking) surface would have us all walking in the road.

    Far better to invest in my hamster-breeding and treadmill mass-production program.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even if...

      Or to encourage everyone to subsist on a diet of baked beans and walk around with a "gas" bag over their bums.

      The first 100% renewable food supply:

      1. Eat beans.

      2. Fart into bag

      3. Collect bags and burn gas to power bean processing factory, farming equipment and even provide fuel for the lorries which deliver.

      It's amazing that no-one has though of this before. Please crowd fund me for 20 million pounds so I can live the high life, oops sorry, start the investment process to take this project to the world.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Even if...

      "Even if you converted every footpath in the country, the unpleasant experience of walking on a spongy (or constantly clicking) surface would have us all walking in the road."

      Actually, that's probably the only good point these things have. There's a reason so many shoes have some sort of air cushion these days, and anyone who does any running knows how much nicer it is to run on dirt (dry and fairly hard, not knee deep mud obviously) or (short) grass than concrete. Having a surface with a very slight give to it rather than the usual concrete and tarmac would be much better for everyone's knees, as long as it's not so much as to actually feel spongy.

  4. Sprismoid
    Coat

    North Korea use case..

    Kim Jung whatever could use this to make an energy profit from the regular marches he organises with high energy (?) footfalls?

    Or get those in prison camps to walk a lot - for their health?

    Now could this be part of a solution for obesity? :)

    Mines the one with lead lining - to make me more productive..

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: North Korea use case..

      Treadmills were widely used in English prisons during the 19th century. Mainly for punishment, but in some cases they were used to supplement windmills.

    2. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: North Korea use case..

      > get those in prison camps to walk a lot

      It's been done. An on-topic quote with respect to the power output of the human body follows:

      Sir William Cubitt, a noted 19th-century civil engineer, offered a solution. He designed a treadmill for English prisons. Its aim was to generate power for mills. It looked like a very wide paddle wheel. Workers held on to a bar and climbed the paddle blades. It was like walking upstairs for hours on end. They had to keep lifting their legs. Gravity gave them no choice.

      A typical treadmill shift lasted eight hours. Workers spent 40 percent of that time resting. That's a lot worse than it sounds. It meant raising the lower half of their bodies 11,000 feet per day. And yet, hard as it was, 200 men and women could hardly match the output of one water wheel.

      19th-century America tried treadmills, but they didn't catch on. For a while Charleston slave-owners could rent one to punish runaway slaves. But labor was too precious to waste that way in an expanding land. We preferred to let prisoners do ugly jobs that had some purpose -- picking cotton, or breaking rock.

      Cubitt's treadmill may have originally had a productive purpose. But a pound of coal could soon do the work of five men working all day on a treadmill. And labor-wasting was a serious crime in its own right, in the mind of 19th-century America.

      Source

      PS Chris made the same point while I was cuttin' an' pastin'

    3. Sprismoid

      Re: North Korea use case..

      Well I live and learn - human ingenuity never ceases..

    4. Fink-Nottle
      Trollface

      Re: North Korea use case..

      > Or get those in prison camps to walk a lot - for their health?

      > Now could this be part of a solution for obesity? :)

      Or the NHS could fit dynamos to it's wheelchairs.

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    FAIL

    Asking for trouble

    People sue councils for wobbly paving slabs as the movement can make you lose your balance and fall, so how much more sue-worthy is a deliberately moving paving slab? It takes surprisingly little movement to make people stumble.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge

    who was first?

    I seem to remember an Asian college girl coming up with this sort of concept some years ago, or applying it to the sidewalks of New York City. That is a lot of footfalls.....

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: who was first?

      A quick Google show dozens of ideas for the same thing, they actually have working flooring to generate electricity in a Tokyo station at the turnstile area. I am sure the first I ever heard of the idea was in the seventies in a New Scientist article. There was also an installation at Stanford University in a student canteen or something.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Radio4 Today programme

    Thanks for this article; it makes many of the points I was screaming at the puff piece on the Today programme this morning. I hope you've sent them a link!

  8. JP19

    What a complete and utter pile of crap

    I find it hard to believe anyone has the cheek to produce a website so devoid of any useful information and even harder to believe people are taken in by it.

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: What a complete and utter pile of crap

      You forget something. Interest rates are at a historical low. Investors are desperately seeking for places they can sink their money into.

      1. Vic

        Re: What a complete and utter pile of crap

        Investors are desperately seeking for places they can sink their money into.

        I have a beer fund. The rates of return will be no lower than this nonsense...

        Vic.

        1. Mtech25
          Pint

          Re: What a complete and utter pile of crap

          Good idea, Now if we attach a device to the pub patrons arm that generates leccy whenever they lift there pint then we might solve the energy issue ,given a few more pints we could possibly solve the world's problems.

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: What a complete and utter pile of crap

      > I find it hard to believe anyone has the cheek to produce a website so devoid of any useful information and even harder to believe people are taken in by it.

      If you don't like it here, shove off then.

      Oh, wait, you meant Pavegen's website?

  9. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    WTF?

    But I took the red pill!!

    " the total amount of energy one can generate using human bodies... is utterly insignificant compared to the energy demands of modern civilisation"

    The Matrix, the Matrix!

  10. frank ly Silver badge

    "The firm is the brainchild ..."

    You mean 'brainfart'.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    who cares about the facts

    what counts (shiny shiny) is the COOL IDEA. And if the idea is catchy with those befuddled investors... BINGO.

    I'm surprised he hasn't valued his company in BILLIONS yet, after all, why the fuck not, it's got no link with reality anyway....

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: who cares about the facts

      Well... that large valuation might be coming. All he has to do is expand his vision and concept to roadways, airport runways, and the beds in houses of ill-repute.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wasn't there something similar for car parks a few years back?

    As title.

    I'm vaguely remembering something related to using the motion of vehicles along a road surface, and a moving plate in the road, to generate electricity. Maybe specifically targeted at car parks (where there'd be fewer issues relating to high dynamic stresses?)?

    Probably a bit more energy per m2 of ground area in a mall's car park than in a mall's corridor. Maybe.

    Could have sworn I read about it here first, can't seem to find any helpful keywords to find it again.

    Be interesting to know what happened to it.

    Something's afoot here (and not just the article picture from MPFC).

    Suggestions?

    Anybody want to sign up to Crowdcube and post a link back from their forum to back here, and/or to Mackay's book, and/or to Loughborough's proper engineering department or any of the many others who could demolish the "power generation" aspects of this project in double quick time?

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: Wasn't there something similar for car parks a few years back?

      > using the motion of vehicles along a road surface, and a moving plate in the road, to generate electricity.

      The problem with that is that the vehicle would seem to be going slightly uphill, or like driving through molasses. Thus they would use more fuel than the generation of energy would warrant. The only point of it being that the car owner pays for the additional fuel use and the road owner gets the energy.

      Same with walking: the pedestrian needs to buy more 'fuel' (food) after waling 'uphill'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "The problem with that "

        Exactly. The laws of thermodynamics at work, ye canna change the laws of physics.

        That's why I'm hoping someone else remembers the car park thing: that it was tried, tested, failed, and written about somewhere.

        There tends to be less publicity for the failures and shutdowns than for the launches though, as exemplified by cold fusion, perpetual motion opportunities, etc, even though it's perfectly obvious it's not going to have a happy ending.

        1. Schultz

          "ye canna change the laws of physics"

          Now why would you be saying that? c = 298.35629 m/s. Here, I've done it. We are all liberals here, so stop being so stubbornly conservative.

      2. Vic
        Joke

        Re: Wasn't there something similar for car parks a few years back?

        The problem with that is that the vehicle would seem to be going slightly uphill, or like driving through molasses. Thus they would use more fuel

        You could combine that with a speed camera - rather than sending a paltry fine through the post, you just extract all the excess energy from a speeding car, slowing him to the speed limit and also extracting valuable power...

        Vic.

  13. dbtx Bronze badge
    Joke

    Sure, I'll contribute

    when their plan is to pave the Sahara Desert with solar cells made from locally abundant SiO2. There, that's my fabulous idea. Take it. Good luck, have fun

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Sure, I'll contribute

      http://www.desertec.org/concept/

      Not sure if they plan on making the solar cells with "local sand", though

  14. Roger Kynaston
    Pint

    An idea (OTish)

    I have always had is to collect some sea water mid ocean and boil it off to make salt. it can then be called pelagic salt and I can ascribe all sorts of mystical bullshit to it in order to sell it for a fortune in Covent Garden. After all, some idiot does that for rock salt from the Himalayas.

    Beer because, I would be able to get lots of it if the idea took off.

  15. David Pollard

    ... and for aeroplanes?

    I seem to recall a similar sort of idea recently to extract electrical energy as the wings flex during flight and thus reduce fuel consumption.

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: ... and for aeroplanes?

      Things like wing flex at least have the virtue of collecting energy from a motion you already have to apply a damping force to.

  16. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    ENGINEER

    ... Laurence Kemball-Cook, who describes himself in a press release today as an "industrial design engineer".

    "... Kemball-Cook graduated in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in "industrial design and technology", ..."

    Can Mr Kemball-Cook tell in which Chartered Institute of Engineering he has member or fellow status?

  17. druck Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Feed in tariff

    As with all completely idiotic micro-generating schemes, there must be an obscenely large feed in tariff awarded to the owners of the stodgy pavement kit, paid for the general public through their energy bills. This however is far worse than wind or solar, in that the poor general public would not only have to pay for it, but do the generation themselves too.

    1. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: Feed in tariff

      Well, feed-in tariffs -- as a way to encourage investment in renewable generation technology -- are still way less open to fraud than up-front grants for equipment that never gets installed. You have to get your solar panels, wind turbine, hydroelectric generator or CHP plant actually up and running and officially certified, before you get to see any government money, and each person gets less of it than the person before. But that's OK because the capital cost of the equipment is decreasing with economies of scale, and the wholesale price of energy (which you get paid on top of the FiT) is increasing as fossil fuels run out.

      However, generating electricity from flooring is never going to work. For one thing, walking on it will be a bit like walking through mud, requiring more effort to take each step .....

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. derfer
    Joke

    Different design

    Wouldn't it be more efficient to manufacture shoe shaped tiles and make people wear them on their feet?

  20. Alan Bourke

    This happily put me in mind of Orbo.

    Remember that particular jam tomorrow from Steorn?

  21. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Sir George Iacobescu...

    ...is not a mathematical moron. He studied Civil and Industrial engineering at Bucharest University. After graduating, he worked as a structural engineer in Romania, his first job designing pump stations for a state-run business. This was behind the Iron Curtain where, if you didn't get the maths right, you and your family suffered.

    So he knows that it's rubbish. Which is why he's not putting any money in. But you have to ask the 1M$ question - why is he praising it?

    And the answer to that is the same reason that scientists are falling over themselves to claim that 'Climate Change' will kill us all, and that politicians are claiming that war in the Middle East is what the West should be encouraging, and that the Saatchi brothers are claiming that Tracy Emin is a great artist. It's because humans have a 'herd mentality' and they follow weird, provably wrong ideas all the time, because social pressure stops people saying that 'the Emperor has no clothes'.

    Charles Mackay wrote a book about it. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds . You can pick up a copy from Amazon for only a few pounds...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A new take on Pavegen...

    I am all for new startups making it...one however needs a business plan...and the plan should identify "expected payback period".

    So if one invests say £10,000 in a new venture you would want to start making a profit in say 3-5 years.

    If we turned Pavegen into a PUC (Power Utility Company) they could then sell their kW-hours to the public. Probably at 15p per kW hour to get a good start....maybe more...

    If the Pavegen cost of a 10m x 2m tile installation is say £10,000 (£500/square metre) then at 7w per tile normalised to say 3 people wide by 15 people deep we would get 45, say 50 people continuously walking on the tiles. Thus at 7 watts/tile (or perhaps more accurately as 50 people per tile installation), one would generate say 350 watts for the period of foot-fall. For a 10 hour foot-fall this is 3,5kw-hours per day.

    Thus one can estimate a payback period.

    The key to Pavegen revenue could however be enhanced if they can gain a key opportunity in another domain...say advertising...like self powered advertising could be one route...like a green advertising platform...

    Anyhow I am keen for all new tech companies to make it and I wish Pavegen well.

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