• Solar road panels are made up of super-strong glass and consist of photovoltaic cells, LED lights, and electrical wiring.
  • The next level of real solar power design can be handy for operating vehicles, warning LEDs on the road, and clearing slippery roads by melting ice and snow.
  • The projects till now have failed due to efficiency issues of solar roadway panels, expensive designs, low visibility, and non-durable setups.

Various mind-blowing energy-saving inventions are making waves around the world. So, it’s no surprise that we would someday be able to produce energy doing something as simple as driving to work. This part of the future is quite close to us now, in the form of solar roads.

A solar road is a concept that allows us to walk and drive over solar panels while saving non-renewable energy and charging our rechargeable vehicles. Although the concept is yet to be implemented worldwide, the idea has piqued interest. It could be a great possibility in the future. In other words, a solar road is our way to the future.

Concept and Origination

These solar roads were a concept originated by a US-based company called Solar Roadways. They developed solar panels that include LED lights to create lines that spare us from using paint that emit harmful chemicals.

The start-up began in 2006 by Scott Brusaw. However, the first solar roadway, Wattway, opened in 2016, a total failure as the region had only 44 days a year of solid sunshine.

They can even accumulate ice and snow through their heating elements. Moreover, these solar road panels feature microprocessors that make them smart and allow them to communicate with each other, the central control station, and the vehicles.

These panels are made of specially formulated tempered glass that can even support the weight of semi-trucks. Thus, we know the glass will not crack when vehicles run over it.

While there are still a lot of improvements to be made on solar roads, they are only heading towards a brighter path. So, we will hopefully find a highly energy-saving and environment-friendly way to drive soon.

Working Mechanism

Solar road panels are made up of super-strong glass and consist of photovoltaic cells, LED lights, and electrical wiring. They are supposed to connect through highways, residential streets, parking lots, and driveways.

They create a tremendous power-collecting network and a system of delivery. Because of that, there would no longer be the requirement of messy wiring everywhere, dramatically reducing power failures.

Solar Road Benefits

Solar roads can power 428 homes with just a single mile of the solar-paneled roadway with only about 4 hours of sunlight daily. Thus, solar roads may be an excellent idea for the future, and if everything goes right, we may soon be enjoying its perks.

1. Next-Level Power System

Considering the intelligent way solar roads charge your vehicles and provide a power supply system, they set a new curve for solar technology. They save many fossil fuels since they replace the regular paved roads. It’It’st just environment-friendly but healthy as well.

2. Can Power Electric Vehicles On-The-Go

One of the best features of this system is that if you own an electric vehicle, you can charge it on the way to work. Although yet to implement, it is of high possibility in the future.

3. Integrated LED Lights for Warning Signs

Another essential feature of the solar road is that it will have inbuilt LED lights to replace the road signs and lines. These lines are usually painted, which, too, emit harmful chemicals. Thus, while providing us with well-lit signs for safety, the LED lights also work for the environment.

4. Melts Snow and Ice for Safety

One of the major concerns of drivers is snow and ice. However, the heating system included in these road solar panels will take care of them. So, if everything goes right, you may be able to drive on entirely snow-free roads in just a few years.

Is the concept a total Failure?

To answer this question, let’s put forward evidence from some tested solar roadways around the globe. In 2016 a buzz-worthy 2800 square meters of road in France was inaugurated. People around the world had high hopes for green energy innovation for transportation. But the project turned out to be a disaster; an expensive and inefficient solar concept.

The reason behind its failure and the probable failure of other potential solar roadways are:

  • Not consistent energy source,
  • The durability of solar roads’ raw materials,
  • Expensive setup costs,
  • Difficult to spot LEDs during the day.

Can we expect an improvement?

After the failure of 2016 France’s solar road, it was already deteriorating in 2018 and was gradually being demolished. The situation was so bad that a maximum speed of 70 km/hr was dropped to 43 km/hr.

In 2017, China built a slightly better version of solar ways (0.6 mile of road) by Qilu Transportation development group. A transparent layer protected the road insulated road on top. But sadly, 6 feet of the panel got missing just after five days of opening, probably a theft.

In 2020, the USA also opened solar roadways with the same technology as France, so it is expected to face similar outcomes to Wattways technologies.

So with these works already being tested or implied, what can we expect for future solar roadways?

  • The durable material will be used for making solar cell pavements.
  • Efficiency is a major issue for solar energy generation, so that will be worked on.
  • The setup costs of solar pv will certainly be minimized.
  • The security against theft, corrosion, and damage will be tight.
  • The upper surface section will be made more visible.
  • The locality selection for solar powered roadways will be more effective.

Solar roads are indeed great ideas for an environment-friendly and clean energy world tackling climate change. However, it has not been successfully implemented all over the world for now. Since the concept is still under development, we cannot say for sure that it will be a reality soon.

Nonetheless, the efforts its pioneers are making in bringing solar roadways prestige back are only taking it further. The prototypes of the current solar roads are being tested in places like parking lots. But we may soon be driving over solar panels and saving energy.

We can use solar roads to charge our electric cars and reduce the use of fossil fuels. We will get cleaner energy while reducing our electricity bills dramatically.

(Last Updated on July 13, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Nina Howell is a Rewenable Energy researcher and consultant based out of Houston, Texas Area. She earned her Master's Degree in Energy and Earth Resources from Austin Jackson School of Geosciences in 2010, and a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2008. Nina has been working in the energy sector since 2011. She worked as an Energy Supply Analyst from 2011 to 2017 in Bounce Energy and then as a Research and Energy Consultant at GE Renewable Energy from March 2017 to February 2020 . Nina is a mom of 2 beautiful children who are joy to her life. She strongly believes in eco-friendly living and is vocal about renewable energy, environmental issues, water crisis, and sustainable living.