Asphalt that cuts the fuel consumption of the vehicles that drive on it is a cutting edge technology under development in France, NCE can reveal.
Colas engineers are investigating the influence of longitudinal evenness and texture of asphalt on fuel consumption. If a link can be proven it could lead to a step change in highways design, with the reduction in fuel consumption directly linked to a reduction in vehicle emissions.
Colas engineers are hopeful that a technological leap with asphalt could match or exceed that made by the tyre industry when silicia was introduced to tyre compounds. There, fuel consumption was shown to be reduced by 3-5%.
“We are asking ‘can advances in pavement design have a similar influence to advances in tyres?’,” explained Colas technical director Jean-Luc Gautier. “Less consumption means less emissions; less pollution,” he added. Gautier is manager of Colas’ centre for expertise and documentation, part of the French contracting giant’s technical research and development department based on its Campus for Sciences and Techniques just outside Paris.
The work is being closely observed by Colas’ UK operation, which is acutely aware of the challenges faced by the Highways Agency and other UK clients in expanding the highway network while keeping a lid on emissions. The Highways Agency has accepted that sections of the M62 motorway, when upgraded to four lane running, will have to run at controlled speeds in order to remain within emissions limits.
“With the Highways Agency becoming Highways England with end user outcomes in mind this is an opportunity to give roads a good image,” said Colas highways director David Craik. “The message is getting through that a road is not a bit of bitumen that needs to be patched up now and again but is a long term asset. And with that thinking you can bring in this kind of thinking.
“Right now different consumption figures for asphalt could not be in the Agency’s thinking. But it can be as it becomes Highways England and it ought to be.”
The technology is very much at the early stage of development.