Some insights into how technology and design could bring sustainability onto the roads of the future.
By the team at Auto Trader UK
With the threat of climate change becoming increasingly prominent across the globe, many of us are looking for ways to cut our own carbon footprints. From household modifications to bigger lifestyle changes, every little thing we change in our own lives can have a huge combined impact towards the sustainability of our planet on a global scale.
Switching to electric vehicles (EVs) is one effective way to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, and they are certainly growing in popularity in the American market, and worldwide. Industry predictions suggest that there will be 125 million electric cars on the world’s roads by 2030 – over 40 times more than the 3 million we currently have.
But with so much attention being paid to the impact of cars on the environment, can the roads that carry them also play their part? More and more research is being done into ways that roads can help towards fighting climate change on a local and global scale. From the methods that are used in construction to futuristic designs – here are three examples of how modern technology and innovations could make the roads of the future more sustainable.
The construction industry plays an important role in the battle against climate change. Did you know that, on average, 400 million tons of material are taken from the earth to be used in construction every single year? This drain on natural resources can have long-lasting effects on our environment, which is why companies are so keen to find new, more efficient methods of construction.
But how can roads be built differently to better promote sustainability across the globe? One of the most effective methods is to use more recycled materials, such as concrete aggregate and reclaimed asphalt pavements. Placing greater emphasis on recycling when constructing new roads can help to ease the pressure placed on natural resources, protecting our environment and promoting the sustainability of the industry and our infrastructure.
Construction companies around the world are also looking for ways to extend the life span of our roads, so that they require less maintenance and fewer ongoing repairs. This means that any emissions produced and materials used during the maintenance work will be saved, offering both short and long-term benefits to the planet. An example of this is the use of age-defying asphalts, which are designed to better carry traffic loads without showing signs of deterioration such as cracks.
A lack of accessible charging stations is one of the major drawbacks for many drivers who are reluctant to make the switch to electric. In fact, according to a 2020 survey, the lack of charging infrastructure was the biggest concern people had with switching from petrol/diesel to electric, with a third of respondents agreeing that it’s the biggest issue.
Whilst the government is making a conscious effort to install more charging points across the country, there is still a long way to go to keep up with the convenience of filling up a petrol tank. But there could be an even better solution.
One innovative and futuristic idea is to install smart surfaces which constantly charge electric vehicles as they drive along the road. Not only will this boost the effectiveness of electric vehicles, but it could also help to encourage more people to switch to electric, by alleviating any concerns around a lack of charging stations.
Upgrading current roads
Beyond building completely new infrastructure to better promote long-term sustainability, there are several ways we can upgrade our current roads to the same end. There have been many ideas proposed around how we can better harness the energy of the sun, to reduce our reliance on electricity and fossil fuels – not only in cars, but also on the roads.
One example of a futuristic solution is the Glowing Lines Project, which started in the Netherlands. It involves painting three light-emitting lines along highways, which harness energy from the sun during the day, and glow up at nighttime for up to eight hours. These lines can help to guide drivers safely along roads who would otherwise rely on the power of overhead lighting. The project is aiming to be further developed before being rolled out internationally.