UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's has unveiled a novel way to generate 'green' electricity. It has installed a new 'kinetic road plate' at its Gloucester store, which generates electricity to power the tills when motorists entering the store car park drive over it.
The plates are activated by a car's wheels, which drive round plates on the surface, triggering a rocking motion in a mechanism beneath the road. In turn, this rocking motion turns a generator which Sainsbury's believe will create about 30kW of energy per hour - enough to power the store's checkout tills.
Of course, using interesting new forms of technology to generate free, green energy is to be applauded, and clearly has much potential. However, in this case, we can't help feel that it is answering the wrong question. The big problem with supermarkets is that they encourage car dependency. Not just the driving to the supermarket part, but the fact that major cities (certainly in the UK - and we suspect elsewhere) are littered with parked cars used just once or twice a week, and kept primarily so that their owners can easily get to the supermarket to do the weekly shop.
It wouldn't involve the techno-wizardry of this scheme, but we'd be much more excited to see Sainsbury's launch some form of smart car-club scheme which its shoppers could make use of, to borrow a car from the supermarket chain as and when they needed it to go shopping. While it doesn't really do anything to reduce the miles driven by people to and from supermarkets, it could remove thousands of the cars which litter the sides of our cities' roads - liberating great swathes of urban space, and meaning that one vehicle could do the job that 20, or 30 typically do today. After all, if Ikea can do it, why can't the supermarkets?
Image: Glamhag on flickr under creative commons