India must take a leaf from China’s book if it is serious about realising its electric-vehicles (EVs) vision. China, Bloomberg reports, is gearing up to test an “intelligent highway” that is path-breaking—for give the pun—in every sense. Solar panels, mapping sensors and battery rechargers have been embedded into a 1.08 km stretch of the road in Jinan in eastern China over which 45,000 vehicles run every day. The solar panels, which had been supplying power to light the highway and some 800 homes, will soon be used to recharge EVs. But that is not all. With China looking to ensure 10% of all cars are EVs by 2030, the public sector company that built the stretch sees a plethora of opportunities—better traffic updates, more accurate mapping and on-the-go recharging.
China is already “frontlining” a vision to become the world’s primary AI innovation centre by 2030. Highways like Jinan’s will, no doubt, figure in the list of areas where machine-learning is likely to be deployed since the Chinese government envisages building an intelligent transport system as part of the larger AI-centre vision. The Jinan stretch has three layers with a transparent shell that lets sunlight reach the solar panels. The top layer is also equipped to let recharging wires and has sensors that monitor temperature, traffic flow and weight.
The road, built at a cost of $6.5 million, is estimated to have a life-span of 15 years, which means it will last as long as the conventional asphalt road. Plans for the test road’s future involve wireless recharging, though there aren’t many cars in China that are equipped for wireless recharging. China, which alone accounts for half of all the EV sales worldwide at the moment, is building serious momentum in new-energy vehicles—this includes battery-powered, hybrids and fuel-cell cars. While it aims at having 7 million new-energy vehicles by 2020, it has gotten busy developing the supporting infrastructure.