Joachim Bertrand / ColasIt's one of those things where once you hear about it, it makes perfect sense: France is going to start paving its roads with solar panels.
French ecology minister Ségolène Royal recently announced the plan to "solarize" 1,000 km (about 620 miles) of road over the next five years.
"The biggest challenge was the innovation itself: be able to protect the solar cells (200 micrometers thick) while a vehicle (several tons sometimes) can drive on it," Wattway assistant developer Nicolas Griglio tells Tech Insider.
Joachim Bertrand / Colas
The Wattway is designed with a grippy structure to reduce the chance of skidding and accidents, and the solar panels are reportedly thin and flexible enough to deal with the expansion and contraction of pavement that happens with temperature changes. It can be laid over already existing roads.
Wattway claims that the panels last the same as conventional pavement: ten years with heavy use, twenty with light use.
Other solar road projects have also emerged recently: The Dutch town of Krommenie has a solar bike path (that's doing better than expected) and American startup Solar Roadways raised $2.25 on Indiegogo after its promo video went viral.
Colas tells us that the Wattway team is "currently developing implementation sites" with private and public contractors.
With a 1,028,446 km of paved roads in France, the Wattway could be the first step toward something huge.