What if driving your car could generate clean energy for the city you live in, driving cost savings and sustainable energy production (even if you’re driving a hummer)? Ubidots partner and New York-based cleantech company, Energy Intelligence (EI), is making this possible by harnessing energy from braking vehicles.

EI’s core technology is a mat that lays flat on the road in high-traffic zones, like urban centers, toll-booth plazas, and parking garages. When cars drive over the mat, they compress hydraulics channels that drive custom clean energy generators—producing electricity that can slash a site’s energy expenses by up to 50% (with a 1 year payback on the hardware).

The company only installs the technology where cars are required to slow down or stop (think entrance gates and other checkpoints) and otherwise dissipate kinetic energy through heat loss and friction on the brakes. That way, EI’s systems are efficiently repurposing wasted energy for more productive use (powering the facilities themselves!).
Data: EI’s other powerful output
EI systems don’t just harvest energy—they also harvest data through powerful IoT connectivity Ubidots helped build. Real-time data from embedded sensors empowers facilities to track clean energy production, optimize maintenance programs, and more. It’s powerful stuff.

But collecting data from thousands of sensors spread across a large urban area can be costly and challenging, given that popular modes of connectivity for transmitting that data, like wifi and bluetooth, only work in short ranges (i.e. within a single facility).

To overcome this challenge, EI approached Ubidots at the product development stage with a prototype for sensor connectivity, looking to increase geographic range and robustness (for the tinkerers among you: the prototype was built using Arduino). Ubidots helped EI develop the prototype into an industrial-grade data acquisition system using LoRaWan connectivity—so EI could send data captured across a larger range (up to 5 km) to the Ubidots cloud.

The solution is not only more robust, it also consumes significantly less energy than other modes of connectivity, like WiFi, making it more cost effective and (fittingly) greener. EI is now able to offer it’s customers powerful dashboards, driving valuable business insights and making it easy to measure impact. And the potential impact to be measured is massive.

Greening our cities
New York City, for instance, will spend almost $52 million dollars on street lighting alone in 2017. It isn’t hard to imagine a not-so-distant future where New York streetlamps could be powered entirely with energy generated by the streets themselves—meaning considerable cost savings and meaningful reductions to the city’s carbon footprint.

So even if a car guzzles “dirty” energy (gasoline), it can still, paradoxically, help a city produce clean, low-cost electricity. And that’s a good thing, because although cars and trucks drive one-fifth of the US’s carbon emissions, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, Americans purchased a whopping 17.54 million cars in 2016— more than any previous year in history. This makes clean energy production and other carbon-reducing smart city initiatives more important than ever.

Ubidots is proud to have been part of EI’s journey, as they lead the curve towards greener cities. Finally, there’s a “silver lining” to city traffic: the kinetic energy it produces.