The World's First Purpose Built Green Freeway Kicks Off

It’s a vision of the future, but it’s closer than you may think.

A black ribbon of tarmac threading its way past industrial and commercial centres with regular stop off points for renewable energy transport. Local towns use their waste and biomass to produce ethanol and EVs can recharge or do battery swaps as and when needed.

And there’s more. Corridors of wind, solar and geothermal power will generate enough electricity not just to power the EVs but also ancillary environmentally friendly systems… such as smart lighting, which will adjust to traffic density and weather conditions, and displays on current emission levels.

And it will all be built using local resources whenever and wherever possible.

It’s a grand proposal, and if it gets the go ahead it should be done and dusted by 2015.

I say “if it gets the go ahead,” but really it’s more a question of when.

The E18 freeway is part of the EU’s grand Trans European Transport Network. Its eastern stretch runs 110+ miles from Helsinki past some of the continent’s main sea- and airports to Europe’s largest border crossing into Russia at Vaalimaa. The first bits of tarmac are already hitting the road (so to speak) and what’s being discussed is upgrading the plain dual carriageway to a properly sustainable bit of motoring.

In August, a feasibility study group produced their first report into the environmental aims of the project, and they were very positive about being able to expand the road’s funding (currently $1.2bn) to make the whole thing a completely green build. Some of the proposals may be dropped, perhaps geothermal (notoriously tricky and expensive) and emissions information for drivers (…why?).

The bulk seem certain to gain approval, however, meaning that by 2015 the world’s first purpose built green freeway will have been built along one of Europe’s busiest sections of road.

BUT it won’t hold the accolade of being the the world’s first green highway. That particular honor looks set to go to the E6/E14 route, which follows the main trade route across Norway and Sweden. This is not a purpose built freeway, unlike the E18, but it is an existing one which is in the process of being upgraded for renewable energy vehicles.

This 270 mile route will have over 15 EV charging stations, two biogas stations, up to 20 bioethanol stations, and four biodiesel stations. Some of these, and the supporting renewable energy infrastructure, are already starting to come online and it’s almost certain the project will be completed before the E18.

Interestingly, the E6/E14 development has also been accompanied by a huge push to promote a sustainable lifestyle, including this fabulous who’s who of available vehicles (from idiosyncratic runabouts to full on flat bed dump trucks).

All in all, it makes you wonder what the rest of the world’s consumers are so worried about!

Chris Milton

is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing's been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he's one of Mashable's top green tweeters and Fast Company's CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops... but that would be boring.