The Netherlands has gone above and beyond to make cycling even greener by creating the world’s first solar-powered bike lane. Yes, possible.
Dubbed SolaRoad, the lane is situated in Krommenie, a town northwest of Amsterdam and was developed by TNO, the Province of North-Holland, Ooms Civiel and Imtech Traffic&Infra. It’ll officially open to bikers on Wednesday, November 12th at only 230 feet long, though it’ll reach 328 feet once completed. Here’s a summation of how it works:
“The pilot road of just a hundred metres consists of concrete modules each of 2.5 by 3.5 metres. Solar cells are fitted in one travelling direction underneath a tempered glass top layer which is approximately 1-cm thick. There are no solar cells on the other side of the road and this is used to test various top layers. In time, the solar power from the road will be used for practical applications in street lighting, traffic systems, electric cars (which drive on the surface) and households.”
According to City Lab, SolaRoad is visually reminiscent of the glass-tint, almost glossy, element that’s left behind on an electric stove after cooking. However, builders at the site have blanketed the road with a friction-granting surface as a way to protect riders from sliding around.
And yet, the eco-friendly pathway also has its downsides. Since it’s a floor, it can’t be redirected to face the sun, thus it’s much less efficient than solar panels that can be angled. What’s more, is its expected cost: a whopping $3.7 million.
Dr. Sten de Wit from SolaRoad, the consortium behind the project, doesn’t see much of an issue to SolaRoad’s drawbacks though, explaining that it may hold the key to powering electric vehicles.
“Electric vehicles are on the rise, but are not really a substitute until the electricity they use is generated in a sustainable way. Roads can generate power right where it is needed,” de Wit explains in a publication for the contract research company TNO.
“Sensors gathering information about traffic circulation can help improve traffic management, or even allow automatic vehicle guidance,” he added.
For now, bike lanes will just have to do.