But scientists now claim they have developed a way to use the movement of cars along a street to generate electricity.
And, to prove it, they will be opening the world’s first road of its kind next month.
The pioneering system works in a similar way to a power-generating dance floor that is already in use in a London nightclub.
As vehicles pass over a road, they squeeze tiny piezoelectric crystals that produce a small amount of energy.
If thousands of crystals are embedded in the road surface, huge amounts of power can be produced.
The current created can be either transferred back to the national grid or used for lighting or heating.
Innowattech, the Israeli company involved in the research, will unveil the first power-creating road in a few weeks’ time.
The company is also developing a similar system for railways and for ‘travelators’ – or moving pavements – at airports.
If the idea was brought in across Britain, experts predict it would save enough energy to power nearly 35,000 small cars.
Scientists throughout the world have been working on similar schemes over the past decade.
American scientists operating in Turin showed in an experiment at the city’s railway station last year that human energy could be used to create electricity.
They came up with a prototype generator powered by a succession of people stepping on blocks fixed to the floor.
They claimed that a large crowd could give enough energy to move a train, while nightclub dancers could provide heating, lighting and run sound systems.
The Israeli engineers behind the current project, based at the Technion Institute in Haifa, are led by scientist Haim Abramovich. … – dm