Take Whats There and Make Energy

One of the greatest things you can do as an industrial designer with earth-saving aspirations is to find a source of free or nearly-free energy. That’s what Luís Castanheira appears very much to have done here. This is Voltair, a wind power generator comprised of an array of fans set on the median of a highway, each of them turned by the air pushed past by the cars speeding by. The cars that’d be going by one way or another. Brilliant!

The main goal of this project, having had the general idea in mind, was to reduce the complexity of the product as much as possible. In doing so, Castanheira was left with a base that supports a power generator, a body composed of a set of curved blades, and a safety cover fixing all components.

Designer: Luís Castanheira

67 Comments

  • engineeringthoughts says:

    You can't take what's there and expect it to be free.

    This design couples the vehicle to a wind turbine fluidly (in this case, the fluid is air). In order to maintain velocity, the vehicles will require more power to overcome the additional wind resistance added by these turbines. Reciprocating engines aren't very efficient and fluidly coupling them makes this form of power generation even less efficient (look up Betz limit for wind power generation).

    Effectively, these wind turbines are petrol (or diesel) powered. This isn't the first concept to make such a green washed proposal and I'm sure it won't be the last :/

    If you're interested in a cursory look into aerodynamics as it applies to road vehicles – the aptly named "Road Vehicle Aerodynamics" by Wolf-Heinrich Hucho may be of interest for you.

    Designers – please stop trivializing power generation! It makes my job (and the jobs of others working in the space of small scale energy conversion) more difficult and fails to manage customer expectation. The internet has a huge amount of resources to do quick feasibility gut checks.

    • Keandre Espina says:

      i'm not sure but shouldn't there be less wind resistance once the turbine start spinning? and it could also catch natural wind, couldn't it?

  • Jose says:

    This is FAR from new!

  • Jose says:

    This is FAR from new!

  • engineeringthoughts says:

    You can't take what's there and expect it to be free.

    This design couples the vehicle to a wind turbine fluidly (in this case, the fluid is air). In order to maintain velocity, the vehicles will require more power to overcome the additional wind resistance added by these turbines. Reciprocating engines aren't very efficient and fluidly coupling them makes this form of power generation even less efficient (look up Betz limit for wind power generation).

    Effectively, these wind turbines are petrol (or diesel) powered. This isn't the first concept to make such a green washed proposal and I'm sure it won't be the last :/

    If you're interested in a cursory look into aerodynamics as it applies to road vehicles – the aptly named “Road Vehicle Aerodynamics” by Wolf-Heinrich Hucho may be of interest for you.

    Designers – please stop trivializing power generation! It makes my job (and the jobs of others working in the space of small scale energy conversion) more difficult and fails to manage customer expectation. The internet has a huge amount of resources to do quick feasibility gut checks.

    • Keandre Espina says:

      i'm not sure but shouldn't there be less wind resistance once the turbine start spinning? and it could also catch natural wind, couldn't it?

    • AdamL says:

      Physics fail.

      This is as bad as having an air conditioner with a wind turbine in front of it to run the air conditioner.
      Or as bad as having falling water turn a water wheel to pump water to the top to fall on the water wheel.. (please visit Escher's waterfall image).

      EngineeringThoughts – thank you for your patient explanations we need more like you in the world!

  • engineeringthoughts says:

    You can't take what's there and expect it to be free.

    This design couples the vehicle to a wind turbine fluidly (in this case, the fluid is air). In order to maintain velocity, the vehicles will require more power to overcome the additional wind resistance added by these turbines. Reciprocating engines aren't very efficient and fluidly coupling them makes this form of power generation even less efficient (look up Betz limit for wind power generation).

    Effectively, these wind turbines are petrol (or diesel) powered. This isn't the first concept to make such a green washed proposal and I'm sure it won't be the last :/

    If you're interested in a cursory look into aerodynamics as it applies to road vehicles – the aptly named “Road Vehicle Aerodynamics” by Wolf-Heinrich Hucho may be of interest for you.

    Designers – please stop trivializing power generation! It makes my job (and the jobs of others working in the space of small scale energy conversion) more difficult and fails to manage customer expectation. The internet has a huge amount of resources to do quick feasibility gut checks.

  • Thank you for your apreciations!
    In fact, if this was installed today it will be powered by petrol cars, but this is a concept! In a few years we are able to change to electric cars and are their air masses that will power this type of turbines.
    In relation to wind resistance, some parts of the highways have already installed some elements wich block shaining and creat visual separation of the lanes. I think this is not a equipment to install in the entire lenght of the highway not only for maintenance reasons but also for the price associated. This should be installed in stretches of road that have support infrastructures such as illumination or service areas.
    This is not a new idea. The arrangement of the parts of the product and their assembly are the new idea. Better or worse, we will see! 😉

    • engineeringthoughts says:

      From a high level view, when powered by electric cars… You're still converting energy from the vehicle and into putting it into the grid. This,

      a) reduces the range of the electric car (more power is needed to maintain velocity, draining the battery faster) and

      b) adds strain to the electric grid. Power storage systems do not charge with 100% efficiency. If the vehicle needs more power to go 100Km because it was adding power to the grid, it will then need to draw even more power from the grid to recharge.*

      It's obfuscated because it's decoupled, but it's a proposed perpetual motion machine (or just a way to make a lot of waste heat from inefficient losses).

      *Yes, we can totally charge from solar or some off grid method… But, we will be required to either increase the size of our solar array or increase the frequency of charging. Whatever the charge method, it would be more efficient to put that power directly into the grid rather than convert energy several times (each time with losses) before putting it into the grid.

      I fully understand it's a concept (and I'm sure you put some work into it). Like publishing any work, it's subject to peer review. Hopefully, the concepts with rave reviews get implemented. Others get iterated, reworked or eventually shelved – it's all part of the process.

  • Thank you for your apreciations!
    In fact, if this was installed today it will be powered by petrol cars, but this is a concept! In a few years we are able to change to electric cars and are their air masses that will power this type of turbines.
    In relation to wind resistance, some parts of the highways have already installed some elements wich block shaining and creat visual separation of the lanes. I think this is not a equipment to install in the entire lenght of the highway not only for maintenance reasons but also for the price associated. This should be installed in stretches of road that have support infrastructures such as illumination or service areas.
    This is not a new idea. The arrangement of the parts of the product and their assembly are the new idea. Better or worse, we will see! 😉

    • engineeringthoughts says:

      From a high level view, when powered by electric cars… You're still converting energy from the vehicle and into putting it into the grid. This,

      a) reduces the range of the electric car (more power is needed to maintain velocity, draining the battery faster) and

      b) adds strain to the electric grid. Power storage systems do not charge with 100% efficiency. If the vehicle needs more power to go 100Km because it was adding power to the grid, it will then need to draw even more power from the grid to recharge.*

      It's obfuscated because it's decoupled, but it's a proposed perpetual motion machine (or just a way to make a lot of waste heat from inefficient losses).

      *Yes, we can totally charge from solar or some off grid method… But, we will be required to either increase the size of our solar array or increase the frequency of charging. Whatever the charge method, it would be more efficient to put that power directly into the grid rather than convert energy several times (each time with losses) before putting it into the grid.

      I fully understand it's a concept (and I'm sure you put some work into it). Like publishing any work, it's subject to peer review. Hopefully, the concepts with rave reviews get implemented. Others get iterated, reworked or eventually shelved – it's all part of the process.

  • In some parts i agree with you! Designers can't develop all parts of a product and that's where enter professionals of engineering, ergonomics and architecture that validate or not our ideas. However I'd like to have the opportunity to test this idea and see its levels of efficiency.

    Thanks a lot for your critics!

    • Maciek says:

      I don't have enough knowledge to discuss this topic but engineeringthoughts' arguments seem reasonable.
      It's not only about its efficiency but also its influence on cars, noise in the tunnel etc.

    • engineeringthoughts says:

      Simply – there will only be a decrease in whole system efficiency. You can not extract a net positive amount of power from this concept system – to do so would be perpetual motion. Perpetual motion is illegal by the laws of thermodynamics that bind us in nature 🙁

      The thought experiment – working backwards starting with electricity going into the grid:

      What makes the electricity? The Spinning Turbine.
      What spins the turbine? The Wind.
      What makes the wind? The moving cars.
      What moves the cars? Electric Motor (in the case of electric cars)
      What powers the motor? The car's battery charge.
      What charged the battery? Electricity.
      What makes the electricity? The Spinning Turbine.

      and so on and so forth.

      Designers can't develop all parts of a product, I completely understand this 🙂 But, designers can have synergy with engineers, architects and etcetera where/when applicable. The internet makes this much easier. An easy check is the thought experiment (useful for gut checks and where impractical to test) – if you ever find yourself in a repeating loop (for power generation), you have a non sustainable system – or a proposition of perpetual motion.

  • In some parts i agree with you! Designers can't develop all parts of a product and that's where enter professionals of engineering, ergonomics and architecture that validate or not our ideas. However I'd like to have the opportunity to test this idea and see its levels of efficiency.

    Thanks a lot for your critics!

    • Maciek says:

      I don't have enough knowledge to discuss this topic but engineeringthoughts' arguments seem reasonable.
      It's not only about its efficiency but also its influence on cars, noise in the tunnel etc.

    • engineeringthoughts says:

      Simply – there will only be a decrease in whole system efficiency. You can not extract a net positive amount of power from this concept system – to do so would be perpetual motion. Perpetual motion is illegal by the laws of thermodynamics that bind us in nature 🙁

      The thought experiment – working backwards starting with electricity going into the grid:

      What makes the electricity? The Spinning Turbine.
      What spins the turbine? The Wind.
      What makes the wind? The moving cars.
      What moves the cars? Electric Motor (in the case of electric cars)
      What powers the motor? The car's battery charge.
      What charged the battery? Electricity.
      What makes the electricity? The Spinning Turbine.

      and so on and so forth.

      Designers can't develop all parts of a product, I completely understand this 🙂 But, designers can have synergy with engineers, architects and etcetera where/when applicable. The internet makes this much easier. An easy check is the thought experiment (useful for gut checks and where impractical to test) – if you ever find yourself in a repeating loop (for power generation), you have a non sustainable system – or a proposition of perpetual motion.

  • J.P. says:

    "Simply – there will only be a decrease in whole system efficiency. You can not extract a net positive amount of power from this concept system – to do so would be perpetual motion. Perpetual motion is illegal by the laws of thermodynamics that bind us in nature :(".

    What are you talking about???? And is not because I don't know what is perpetual motion or the laws of thermodynamics. But what in earth has these to do with this design????? Put your glasses and check again the figures: the turbines use the AIR PUT ASIDE BY THE CAR. It will not impact the efficiency of the car because it is not in front of it or attached to it!!!. Always the car will produce this side flow of air. ALWAYS. And that is energy that is completely wasted. I think this is a very interesting idea. I know that requires a lot more work but it is a very interesting and noble idea.

    Luis, I congratulate you and hope more people start looking to this energy black holes that engineers like that guy and I always left behind.

    "Engineeringthoughts" don't fill your mouth with science and engineering just to show a pretended superiority. If you are really an engineer you should stop abashing new ideas. "That would be perpetual movement" LOL!!!

  • J.P. says:

    “Simply – there will only be a decrease in whole system efficiency. You can not extract a net positive amount of power from this concept system – to do so would be perpetual motion. Perpetual motion is illegal by the laws of thermodynamics that bind us in nature :(“.

    What are you talking about???? And is not because I don't know what is perpetual motion or the laws of thermodynamics. But what in earth has these to do with this design????? Put your glasses and check again the figures: the turbines use the AIR PUT ASIDE BY THE CAR. It will not impact the efficiency of the car because it is not in front of it or attached to it!!!. Always the car will produce this side flow of air. ALWAYS. And that is energy that is completely wasted. I think this is a very interesting idea. I know that requires a lot more work but it is a very interesting and noble idea.

    Luis, I congratulate you and hope more people start looking to this energy black holes that engineers like that guy and I always left behind.

    “Engineeringthoughts” don't fill your mouth with science and engineering just to show a pretended superiority. If you are really an engineer you should stop abashing new ideas. “That would be perpetual movement” LOL!!!

    • engineeringthoughts says:

      A simple experiment

      Take a computer fan and connect to a 12V supply. Listen to the sound it makes. Now, place your hand near the exit as to interfere with the air flow. You'll hear the motor speed increase (if you're measuring current, you'll see the current decrease). Your hand is attached to the motor just as the car is attached to the turbine – viscous coupling.

      The fan motor increase in speed because of a reduced airflow (less load). In order to maintain the same air velocity, you'll have to have the fan spin even faster (increase the voltage).

      I don't believe myself to be superior to anyone else – it's better to read my posts without that assumption. It's also preferred that you not shout with caps lock (it's just a credibility thing – shouting doesn't add to friendly discussion).

      Lastly – I could have just said that this idea is nowhere near new and there's a reason why hasn't been implemented. to my knowledge, the concept is at least a decade old, perhaps longer.

  • J.P. says:

    “Simply – there will only be a decrease in whole system efficiency. You can not extract a net positive amount of power from this concept system – to do so would be perpetual motion. Perpetual motion is illegal by the laws of thermodynamics that bind us in nature :(“.

    What are you talking about???? And is not because I don't know what is perpetual motion or the laws of thermodynamics. But what in earth has these to do with this design????? Put your glasses and check again the figures: the turbines use the AIR PUT ASIDE BY THE CAR. It will not impact the efficiency of the car because it is not in front of it or attached to it!!!. Always the car will produce this side flow of air. ALWAYS. And that is energy that is completely wasted. I think this is a very interesting idea. I know that requires a lot more work but it is a very interesting and noble idea.

    Luis, I congratulate you and hope more people start looking to this energy black holes that engineers like that guy and I always left behind.

    “Engineeringthoughts” don't fill your mouth with science and engineering just to show a pretended superiority. If you are really an engineer you should stop abashing new ideas. “That would be perpetual movement” LOL!!!

  • GLGL says:

    engineeringthoughts, youre thingking is flawed. Youre saying that the turbulences caused by a car helps the other car behind it. If it's absorbed by the turbines to the side it won't be there to help. These turbulences can only help the car behind if it's less than a meter from it's rear bumper. Since nobody does that (except the incredibly stupid) the turbulences are always "lost" for the other cars. So using it to produce electricity is the only secure way to recuperate it. And it won't decrease the whole system effiency.
    If aerodynamics is not your field, please don't make such extravagant conclusions. (excuse my poor english).

  • GLGL says:

    engineeringthoughts, youre thingking is flawed. Youre saying that the turbulences caused by a car helps the other car behind it. If it's absorbed by the turbines to the side it won't be there to help. These turbulences can only help the car behind if it's less than a meter from it's rear bumper. Since nobody does that (except the incredibly stupid) the turbulences are always “lost” for the other cars. So using it to produce electricity is the only secure way to recuperate it. And it won't decrease the whole system effiency.
    If aerodynamics is not your field, please don't make such extravagant conclusions. (excuse my poor english).

    • engineeringthoughts says:

      I do not believe I once mentioned turbulence or interactions between vehicles. And while I agree that “drafting” behind other vehicles is extremely dangerous – that is a different issue all together. The core argument (friendly use), is that while the turbines are not mechanically coupled to the vehicles, we can not ignore that they are viscously coupled.

      My field is in mechanical systems and aerodynamics. In fact, products for power generation is my day job (including but not limited to wind turbine design) – I feel really lucky that I get to design them and then see it through mass production. Lastly, your English is excellent 🙂

  • GLGL says:

    engineeringthoughts, youre thingking is flawed. Youre saying that the turbulences caused by a car helps the other car behind it. If it's absorbed by the turbines to the side it won't be there to help. These turbulences can only help the car behind if it's less than a meter from it's rear bumper. Since nobody does that (except the incredibly stupid) the turbulences are always “lost” for the other cars. So using it to produce electricity is the only secure way to recuperate it. And it won't decrease the whole system effiency.
    If aerodynamics is not your field, please don't make such extravagant conclusions. (excuse my poor english).

  • G.B says:

    why is everyone picking flaws with this ( i know you have to have flaws to get better but still) ? i suppose it does have its flaws but if you think about it , the design is doing more with the energy we have , energy cannot be created or destroyed therefore we should make the most of what we have available and this concept design is doing just that , in short it is better than nothing and will be doing more good than harm and that should be the idea of renewable energy

    hats off to you sir 😛 , by the way im an 18 year old engineering design student and one of the lads in my class has designed something very similar to this 🙂

  • G.B says:

    why is everyone picking flaws with this ( i know you have to have flaws to get better but still) ? i suppose it does have its flaws but if you think about it , the design is doing more with the energy we have , energy cannot be created or destroyed therefore we should make the most of what we have available and this concept design is doing just that , in short it is better than nothing and will be doing more good than harm and that should be the idea of renewable energy

    hats off to you sir 😛 , by the way im an 18 year old engineering design student and one of the lads in my class has designed something very similar to this 🙂

  • lorenzo says:

    this design concept is absolutely brilliant a completely untapped source of wind energy.This should be pursued or applied every where asap

    • jorge says:

      I agree with you…
      You should put all of your money to help this guy to develop his idea.
      You and this guy will be rich in less than a year I believe…

  • lorenzo says:

    this design concept is absolutely brilliant a completely untapped source of wind energy.This should be pursued or applied every where asap

  • jorge says:

    @engineeringthoughts, just leave it as it is … There is no way to “convince” these guys, because they move on the “believes” world.
    They “believe” it must work, they “believe” you are “negative energy” to their “amazing idea”.
    It is sometimes sad to work on “real things” that make “real life” of all these people easier…

  • jorge says:

    I agree with you…
    You should put all of your money to help this guy to develop his idea.
    You and this guy will be rich in less than a year I believe…

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  • Kara says:

    Someone mentioned solar. Couldn’t car makers design “spray on” solar collectors (maybe polyurethane over the paint) connected to the battery? Free energy & less scratches & rust. (Btw… if you use this idea, I claim .001 of the profits!)

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