A Dutch company that has pioneered technology enabling a road that converts sunlight into electricity has completed its first pilot route – a bike path in the town of Krommenie, 25 kilometres from Amsterdam.
It’s the second major innovation in road surfaces that we’ve seen from the Netherlands this week, the other being glow-in-the-dark road markings we reported on here.
Called SolaRoad, the pilot installation is 70 metres in length – by 2016, it will have been extended to 100 metres – and comprises modules measuring 2.5 metres by 3.5 metres.
Those in one direction of travel have solar panels beneath a 1 centimetre thick layer of tempered glass, said to be able to withstand the weight of a lorry.
The modules in the other direction don’t have the solar panels, and are being used to test a variety of surfaces.
SolaRoad has been developed by TNO, the Province of North Holland, Ooms Civiel and Imtech Traffic&Infra. It went live last Friday, and will be officially opened by the Dutch transport minister on 12 November.
The provincial government met half of the €3 million cost of the project, which in its current form can supply enough electricity to meet the requirements of three homes.
Eventually, SolaRoad could power street lighting and traffic systems, electric bikes and, and once deployed on roads used by motor traffic, electric cars.
During the three-year pilot of the technology, tests will be carried out to assess its performance and enable it to be developed further.
Those tests are aimed at addressing issues such as its performance in a live situation, the amount of energy it produces, and how cyclists experience riding on the surface.
Prior to its deployment, it was tested in a laboratory to ensure it meets relevant safety requirements for road surfaces.
The developers have posted a video to Vimeo in Dutch which gives an overview of their work.
While SolaRoad claims on its website that the technology is a world first, and it certainly seems to be the first live use, others have been drawing up similar plans elsewhere.
Husband-and-wife inventor team Julie and Scott Brusaw secured $2 million in crowdfunding on Indiegogo earlier this year to put their Solar Roadways project into production.
They say that if every road in the United States used the technology they have been working on, the country would generate three times as much energy as it currently consumes.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.