California Wants to Use Traffic Jams To Generate Power

California has a lot of traffic jams, and the State is looking to generate power from them using piezoelectric crystals.

How Piezoelectric Crystals Work / Image Credit: By Tizeff – Template:Ownnn

How might this be possible? These types of crystals produce electricity if they are compressed, and it is this “piezoelectric effect” that California is hoping to leverage to generate power from traffic jams. If these crystals are installed beneath the road, the motion of cars driving over them will compress them enough to produce electricity.




The state has allocated two million dollars to determine whether this is feasible. The first step will be to pilot test installations to determine whether the crystals are effective when installed beneath the road. Some early concerns with the proposed plan include:

  • Whether the piezoelectric crystals can withstand constant traffic.
  • What happens to the crystals when roadwork needs to be done? Are they easy to remove and reinstall, or will they need to be discarded?
  • What kind of maintenance needs to be performed? Is the cost worth it?

In our opinion, this technology is unlikely to succeed on a large scale. There are too many potential maintenance issues, and installation of a large system on existing roadways (which will be the busiest streets that can produce the most electricity) would cause severe disruptions.