Rise of the power road: Norway targets roads that produce more energy than they use

The roads of the future could function as a massive network of power stations, harvesting wasted energy from cars and generating additional power through bridges fitted with solar panels and wind turbines.

This is the focus of a new project between Scandinavia’s largest research organisation, SINTEF, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), which is looking to develop ‘power roads’ that generate more energy than they consume.

The plan is to incorporate these into an existing project by the Norwegian Public Roads Agency, also known as Statens Vegvesen, which is looking to replace the ferry crossing sections of the E39 motorway in Western Norway by 2030. The project will simultaneously reduce the energy required to build the roads, and incorporate energy-generating infrastructure.

As ambitious as the project sounds, SINTEF is confident that it is achievable within the timeframe, and is already planning test sites for next year.

“We hope to be launching the first projects in the spring of 2016,” said Berit Laanke, from SINTEF Building and Infrastructure.

“With the dedicated commitment of public sector organisations such as Statens Vegvesen, I’m convinced that the Power Road project will succeed.”

One of the bridges planned for Norway's E39 project. Image courtesy of Statens Vegvesen

One of the bridges planned for Norway’s E39 project. Image courtesy of Statens Vegvesen

In order to create roads that generate power in numerous different ways, SINTEF is planning an array of research projects tackling different aspects of the system.

“In the short term SINTEF is looking to launch a small number of specific projects”, said Laanke.

“This autumn we’re focusing on energy generation linked to bridges, involving systems integrated into safety barriers and noise screens. We’re also looking into how materials production can be made more energy efficient by using locally-sourced stone, and are working together with Statens Vegvesen on a project proposal involving the electrification of heavy-duty transport vehicles, incorporating a kind of ‘rubber track’, equivalent to a tram running on rubber wheels.”

Norway’s E39 project will require a significant number of bridges to be built, so there is also a strong focus on how to turn these structures into multifaceted power stations.

In addition to building solar panels and wind turbines into the bridges, the organisation wants to include systems that generate power from the waves and currents in the water the bridges are crossing.

Bhumibol Bridge in Thailand, which has solar panels built into its base.

Bhumibol Bridge in Thailand, which has solar panels built into its base.

However, the focus will need to be on harvesting energy using the roads themselves, if the project is to be replicated across the country and beyond.

For SINTEF, this means finding ways to extract energy from cars themselves.

“Electric cars are already able to recharge themselves as they go downhill,” said Laanke.

“Will it be possible to harvest some of this energy if the car battery is fully charged? Cars exert a pressure on the surface they roll along, so perhaps we can capture this energy for re-use?

“The same principle has been applied on football pitches. As the players run around, lights are activated to illuminate the pitch.”

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Source: New Scientist

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Source: Ars Technica

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Source: Motherboard

Elon Musk unveils Tesla Truck and Tesla Roadster

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Source: BBC

Arrivo plans to build 200mph hyperloop-lite track

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The all new Factor Magazine is here – your guide to how today, tomorrow and beyond are being shaped

Guess who’s back, back again.

It’s been a few months, but Factor has returned with a bigger and better format, bringing the same future news and discussion, but on a platform that you can read on any device.

We’ve been working towards this for a long, long time: this is how we’ve always wanted the magazine to look, and we’re so happy to share this with you. It can be viewed on any web browser, on anything from a mobile to a monster PC, and if you’re on a desktop or laptop, click the button in the bottom right-hand corner for the ultimate shiny reading experience. A digital magazine has never looked this good. Probably.

Unfortunately that means no more iPad app, but as you can easily read the magazine from an iPad web browser, we hope you’ll agree that what we’ve gained is so much better than what’s been lost.

So anyway, here it is: the Winter 2017 issue of Factor, the first issue of the quarterly version of the magazine.

In case any of you are worrying about us publishing the magazine quarterly, trust us you don’t need to. We’ve produced the biggest issue of Factor ever, so packed with futuristic awesomeness, that we’ve had to divide it into three sections: Today, Tomorrow and Beyond.

Today deals with the futuristic present, as much of what we think of as ‘the future’ already exists today. We look at how humanoid robots are being employed as co-workers, hear from the legendary Richard Stallman about the vanishing state of privacy and discover how automation is already taking jobs. Plus, we take a light hearted look at the futuristic world of Mr Tesla, Elon Musk, and provide our festive present suggestions in a bumper futuristic gift guide.

Moving on to Tomorrow, and it’s all about the world of the next few decades, as technologies that are in development now reach fruition and seep into our everyday lives. We consider how flying cars are inching towards reality, with a look at both Lilium and the newly announced UberAir, and find out how driverless delivery may be the first true instance of the self-driving future.  Plus, we also look at the Christmas dinners of the future, because why the hell not.

Finally, in Beyond we look at the way-out future that many of us probably won’t live to see, but is supremely cool to think about. We ask leading futurists to predict what’s in store in the 22nd century – not the most positive of pictures, unfortunately – and consider what jobs will remain in a post-automation world. Plus, we look at the potential first homes of the human race beyond the solar system, and check out how asteroid mining is set to shape off-earth development.

Take a look, and if you like what you see and read, please share the magazine with your friends, or tell us what you think. This is a completely free magazine, with not an ad in sight, so it’s always good to know that it’s worth the effort.