Leighton Buzzard train station now has two Pavegen walkways outside the front. They are made of kinetic floor tiles that converts footsteps into just enough electricity to power a digital display screen and two USB charging benches.
The display screen explains what is going on, in the cause of promoting sustainability and energy efficiency.
It is one of the projects being funded by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) SMART Places Live Labs programme, which got £23m funding from the Department for Transport in 2019. Central Bedfordshire Council, which secured £1.05m for its Live Labs programme, has worked with Ringway Jacobs, West Midlands Trains and technology provider Pavegen on the project
Pavegen is a UK start-up founded by Laurence Kemball-Cook in 2009. Its technology converts the wasted kinetic energy from footsteps into renewable electricity. It has been installed more than 200 times across 37 different countries, with applications aimed at city centres, stations, venues and stadiums – anywhere with high footfall – but has yet to take become mainstream.
An early Pavegen showcase project in the UK was an installation at West Ham tube station in London in 2012, where 12 Pavegen units harvested the energy from more than a million footsteps to power 12 LED floodlights at the station over the course of the London Olympic and Paralympics Games. [See video below.]
In an attempt to commercialise the technology, Pavegen has created a supplementary app that promises rewards for users.
Pavegen chief executive Laurence Kemball-Cook explained: “We have evolved our product to create a new and engaging mobile app platform to create a way for transport hubs to reward their passengers for the footsteps they use. These rewards could be used to encourage footfall and get people back to retail, leisure or hospitality sections of the UK’s larger train stations. This is without losing site of the purpose, using footsteps to create clean electricity for off-grid, bespoke solutions.”
Live Labs programme director Giles Perkins said: “The untapped footfall energy at our transport hubs represents a real opportunity to provide sustainable energy sources to power bespoke applications, while engaging audiences and encouraging behavioural change. This trial will help demonstrate the viability of the technology and could be a step change in the way transport hubs engage with commuters.”