A simple and effective solution to reduce emissions: improve road quality

Electric cars, low emission zones and shared vehicles. The world is in a race to find itmost effective way reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other transport-related greenhouse gases. Until now, however, no particular attention had been paid to a very simple method: improving the quality of the asphalt pavement.

Having roads in good condition can contribute to optimizing the efficiency of vehicles and thus reducing their CO2 emissions. This solution has many other positive effects: it improves driver comfort, increases safety and reduces road noise levels, for a few examples. It also goes hand in hand with Ferrovial’s objectives and values.

The value of maintenance

Hundreds, thousands or even million vehicles travel the roads of the world every day. It is therefore not surprising that most of the CO2 emissions associated with the life cycle of these roads are linked to their use and not to their construction.

According to the European Concrete Paving Association (EUPAVE) study, “Road Pavement Industries Highlight Huge CO2 Savings Offerd by Maintaining and Upgrading Roads”, the CO2 emissions associated with the construction and maintenance of a pavement represent about 1% of its entire life cycle. For those experiencing heavy traffic, this figure may be even lower.

The vast remainder is determined by the emissions of the vehicles that drive there. The environmental impact of a road is also closely linked to the regularity of the surface and the quality of its pavement. When there are irregularities in flatness, grooves, potholes and damaged seals, among other problems, vehicles are less efficient and generate more CO2 emissions to travel the same distance.

Smooth and well-maintained pavements therefore contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in road transport. This is particularly important when it comes to heavy vehicles: a two-year study in Nevada (USA) found that after pavement renovation, trucks consumed up to 4.5% less fuel.

This means that regular road maintenance is the first major step towards reducing emissions in the sector and the creation of infrastructures that are more respectful of the environment. In the European Union, upgrading two-thirds of the region’s roads could prevent the emission of up to 28 million tonnes of CO2 each year. It would be the same as replacement of six million conventional vehicles with zero emission models.

Asphalt bitumen solutions

The options for mitigating the environmental impact of roads with asphalt do not stop there: there are also other options for reducing emissions in their site and maintenance. These focus on the 1% that has nothing to do with road use.

One of these ways consists in reducing the manufacturing temperature of the agglomerate. Typically, production processes in asphalt plants reach temperatures of up to 150°C. The new techniques adopted by Ditecpesa, a leader in asphalt and pavement products, have succeeded in lower them to 40°Cwhich helps to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These types of solutions are crucial for Ferrovial, which carries out periodic reviews so that its major infrastructure projects have the best possible road surface. The company’s work therefore contributes to reducing the amount of emissions from all cars traveling on its roads and highways in different countries around the world.

Maintaining and ensuring a good asphalt surface on the roads (which can be quantified by values ​​such as IRI and CRT) has a significant positive impact. This increases passenger safety, improves air quality and reduces noise generated by vehicles. Having a stable and well-maintained pavement also has an impact on vehicle maintenance and prevents wear. In the long term, it also reduces the cost of maintaining and rebuilding the roads themselves. It goes without saying that all of this has financial advantages.

Another one Major advantage of this solution is that it is not necessary to develop technologies or methods to implement it. As new ways to make electric vehicles or reduce CO2 emissions are explored through technology, keeping our roads in good condition has always been there and always will be.

For Ferrovial, getting involved in road maintenance is a great opportunity for reduce environmental impact of the infrastructure and transport sector and thus contribute to the maintenance of a healthier and more sustainable world.

Asphalt Facts

Road Surface Characteristics: International Research and Technology – WE Meyer – Google Books

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