The German startup Solmove has developed a system of glass panels embedded with solar cells that can be used to cover roads and generate energy. It's the latest step in solar road technology, and looks set to give a boost to the electric car market too.
In 2016, 7.4 per cent of all the electricity consumed in Germany was generated by photovoltaic systems, mostly located on the roofs of houses or in solar parks. The Munich-based startup Solmove is taking a new approach in an aim to boost that amount even further, and has come up with a new kind of photovoltaic panel that can be installed on flat surfaces such as roads, carparks and pavements. It's the ultimate multi-use space-saving solution: serving both as a road surface and a source of energy.
Solmove's project seems to be part of a growing worldwide demand for more sustainable roads, with countries as diverse as South Korea, France and the United States all building - or at least, planning to build - bike paths or roads with some kind of integrated solar panels.
Solmove's photovoltaic modules are made up of eight by eight centimetre glass tiles with in-built solar cells that are connected together in a network. These tiles are applied on top of the desired surface a bit like a carpet, meaning the existing road or pavement doesn't have to be removed to install them.
The system has already been successfully tested on cycle lanes and foot paths - the goal is to use it on roads driven over by cars too. The company says that the modules will last 25 years, which is around the same as the average life of a tarmac road. And at the end of their lifespan they can be "peeled off" and transferred to a solar system recycling facility.
What Could the Energy Generated Be Used For?
Solmove don't just aim to use their panels to power nearby homes - they want to use inductive charging technology to give electric cars a power boost while they pass by. That would offer a solution to the seemingly neverending consumer issue of range anxiety, as the vehicles would constantly be charged as they drive along. That could, in turn, mean that the size of batteries in electric cars could decrease, making them lighter and more affordable and see EVs become a whole lot more attractive to the mainstream driving public.
And there are other possible advantages to the system too. The energy generated could be used to heat the road in winter, removing dangerous icy patches, or even light up the surface via in-built LEDs, to make the roads safer for everyone at night. Sounds like a win-win situation to us.
According to Solmove, one square metre of their photovoltaic system can produce around 100 watts of electrical power. An area of 33 square metres would be enough to power an electric car for up to 20,000 kilometres.
E-mobility is a topic that RESET has been paying a lot of attention to in recent months. Take a look at our RESET Special E-Mobility to find out about other e-mobility startups and initiatives.