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Finland Proposes World's First

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On: Tue, Aug 24, 2010 at 9:29AM | By: Chris Weiss

Finland Proposes World's First

The Loviisa municipality in Finland is leading a project to build what it calls the world's first ecological highway. The highway, which would be built on an 81-mile stretch of road connecting the coastal town of Turku with the town of Vaalima, would feature electric charging stations as well as pumps stocked with locally-sourced biofuels in an attempt to become carbon neutral. The project is aimed at providing a model for the rest of the world. 

Loviisa is located near the beginning of the proposed green highway and has taken the lead on the project. Currently, the project is a potpourri of green brainstorming with ideas ranging from pumps offering biofuels and electricity made from local waste products to geothermal heat pumps to "smart" lighting that automatically turns on and off based on weather and traffic patterns. The town is working on a study to see if the green highway will be feasible and expects to publish a report by next spring.

Production could begin as early as the second half of next year and hopes are that the highway is done by 2016. The cost is projected at around 700 euros ($900 million), a sum that would include both public and corporate financing.

A representative from Loviisa, Aki Marjasvaara, was quoted by AFP in explaining the project's significance: "The aim is to create the model for an ecological highway that could be used even on an international level. No other such project exists. This would set an example to the world."

In case you happen to be taking a Sunday morning drive up to Vaalima in your standard Honda Accord, fret not. The planners recognize that there are still plenty of carbon-indebted folks driving gas guzzlers and intend to offer regular gas stations along with biofuels and electric charging stations.

We've seen plenty of talk about cleaner vehicles featuring electric, hybrid and biofuel drivetrains, but there's been much less talk about cleaner roadways to support these vehicles. In fact, one of the big issues that threatens the future of electric vehicles is range anxiety--the fear of being stranded by a depleted battery. According to an MSNBC report from last month, the rosiest projections indicated that there will only be 16,000 electric charging stations around the United States by 2012--compared to 117,000 gas stations. While electric vehicles are designed to be charged at home, there's always the worry of not being able to find a charging station and running out of power on the road.

Like Marjasvaara indicates, the project in Finland could be a model for how to round out a greener automotive infrastructure. And the rest of the world will certainly be watching.


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