Energy Down the Road

14% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. While electric cars are becoming more and more popular, and hydrogen offers new possibilities, there are also other ways to mitigate the automobile carbon footprint – and make the most out of it.

Roads can provide several solutions. Replacing asphalt with solar panels would make a profit off seldom-used roads. Solar Roadways, a startup in Idaho, even went so far as to suggest LED installations on these solar panels that would make the roads safer and paint-free – for instance, a moose crossing the road could be indicated to drivers well before the danger. But glass roads are fragile and don’t make a good grip for tires. A French initiative, Wattway, sought to fix this and came up with photovoltaic materials capable of keeping the same texture as asphalt.

Solar energy isn’t the only way to generate energy thanks to roads. Certain materials can gain electric charge when mechanical stress is applied to them, by a process called piezoelectricity. The problem with this is that the factors that would make this particularly effective, such as heavy, fast-driving trucks, also damage the road faster.

But can these materials be so performant and long-lasting to reimburse the carbon impact of their production? Is it worth it?

That’s why saving energy may be more attractive than creating it. The tire industry has created generations of tires that are each more fuel-effective than the next, but Michelin’s new prototype for the future, the ‘Concept Vision’, sets the bar way higher. Not only is it made from recycled materials and puncture-proof, but it’s also constantly connected to the car’s onboard computer and its tread can be altered to adapt to snow or dry surfaces. The tires could last the car’s lifetime and solve the carbon and chemical pollution linked to rubber production.

The only catch (for now) is that we’ll have to wait thirty years to see it on our roads.

Chloé Joubert

Sources

LABBE, Pierrick. “Michelin présente Vision, un pneu connecté, increvable et futuriste.” OBJETCONNECTE.NET (blog), October 26, 2018. https://www.objetconnecte.net/michelin-vision-pneu-connecte/.

“Pneu : les innovations en cours que Michelin prépare pour ses clients.” 123Automoto, August 24, 2018. https://www.123automoto.fr/comment-michelin-compte-revolutionner-le-pneu-avec-son-concept-vision/.

“Groupe Michelin |Concept Vision.” Michelin Corporate. Accessed April 26, 2019. https://www.michelin.com/innovation/strategie-innovation/concept-vision/.

“Harvesting Energy from Roads | IEC E-Tech | Issue’ 02/2018.” IEC e-tech. Accessed April 26, 2019. https://www.iecetech.org/Technology-Focus/2018-02/Harvesting-energy-from-roads.

“Wattway de Colas | Faisons de la route, l’énergie de demain.” Accessed April 26, 2019. http://www.wattwaybycolas.com/.

 

 

Photo by Jimmy Hamelin

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