Pavegen steps up Crowdcube campaign to power its kinetic flooring business

Pavegen’s current flooring product can be used indoors or outdoors in high traffic areas, and generates electricity from pedestrian footfall using an electromagnetic induction process.

The company claims that the surface is also sensitive to where people are walking, and how many pedestrians are in a given area, so they are also hoping to create a data-analytics software business to go with its high tech underfoot hardware — hardware which could, for instance, tell train travellers where to stand on a platform to get into the least busy carriage before the train arrives.

The technology is patented and the company has just done its hundredth installation, according to founder and CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook.

Today the company is launching a campaign on Crowdcube with the aim of raising £750,000 or more to keep scaling a business that has been beavering away for several years, with plans to ramp up its headcount and operations.

“We’re sitting right at the middle of the hardware space. I started the idea as a sketch. I guess we’re creating an industry. We had no blueprints or market to follow — we had to create it, so… there was a lot of figuring out to do and core engineering behind the product,” Kemball-Cook tells Get Funded “We’ve had to figure out each market and make it fit for that. It was a tremendous challenge.”

“Right now today we’ve got a team of 25 in the U.K. We’ve got operations set up in nine different regions in the world… And we’ve deployed [Pavegen] in 30 countries so we’ve got a bit of scale already.”

The product is best suited to transport hubs where a large flow of people will pass over it. The largest deployment the company has done so far is in a (non-standard sized) football pitch in a Favela in Rio de Janiro to help power the floodlights around the pitch. Other installations include in Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia, and at London’s Heathrow airport.

It’s also today put up a temporary installation outside London’s Canary Wharf station (pictured above) powering two streetlights with the aim of raising awareness about the technology and its crowdfunding campaign.

Pavegen was founded back in 2009, beginning as a concept bootstrapped by Kemball-Cook in his bedroom before he took in a friends and family round of around £100,000 in late 2010. That was followed by a £450,000 seed in 2012. The startup has been generating revenue since then — taking in more than £2.5 million in total to date — and was even profitable in 2013. But now plans to expand operations and headcount to scale the business to meet demand for its energy-generating tiles.

The goal is to reduce the cost of the kinetic flooring until it’s the same price as “normal flooring”, as Kemball-Cook puts it. Whereas the price per unit now is currently around the same price as high end train station flooring (so circa £300 per unit).

How exactly does Pavegen generate substantial amounts of energy from footfall? Kemball-Cook says it’s a combination of electromagnetic induction and flywheel energy storage technology which maximizes the energy generated — allowing for a system that generates watts of energy per footstep.

“Storing energy within the inertia of a flywheel is a highly efficient way to take maximum power out of things,” he says. “So we’re really maximizing the amount [of energy] we can get. And we’re getting up to 7 watts per footstep… We’ve combined several engineering principles in a way that’s never been done before. That allows us to capture all the energy from a footstep and then to maintain momentum in a flywheel through the duration of the footsteps.”

“If we put around 20 metres of Pavegen on Oxford Street we would generate more than enough power that’s needed for all the street lighting along that stretch. So A 20 metre array could kick out in the region of 1,500 watts. And we have systems that can do megawatts, so we’re getting into that space of what solar can do,” he adds.

“Next for us will be road technology. We know it’s harder but we’ve learnt a lot in deploying it in so many different countries,” says Kemball-Cook.

The startup has serious ambitions — gunning for mass global adoption of its kinetic flooring product, and becoming part of a renewable energy mix in urban centers where there is, after all, no shortage of footfall. The next pedestrian is ever just around the corner.