08:09 GMT18 January 2021
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    China's first solar-powered super highway is expected to open to traffic by 2022, empowering a growing transition toward electric and driverless vehicles.

    The six-lane Hangzhou-Shaoxing-Ningbo Expressway in East China's Zhejiang Province boasts solar panels that charge electric vehicles and should be able to support automatic driving, the Hangzhou Daily reported on Sunday.

    The 161-kilometer expressway linking Hangzhou and Ningbo is designed to enable travel at China's top speed limit of 120 kilometers an hour, the report said.

    "The super expressway is expected to increase the average speed by 20 to 30 percent through smart system and vehicle management, as close to the design speed as possible," Hangzhou Daily Press Group reported, citing Ren Zhong, deputy director of the provincial department of transport.

    Vehicles do not have to slow down to pay tolls. Instead, the toll will be automatically paid.

    "A chip installed in the vehicles will be able to achieve that," Sun Zhang, a railway expert and professor at Shanghai Tongji University told the Global Times on Sunday.

    The expressway will also provide an adaptive road environment for automatic driving which should reduce damage from traffic accidents, the Hangzhou Daily said.

    "Automatic driving is comparatively safe compared with the manual drive mode," Sun said. "Sensors installed within the vehicles and on the road can react faster than humans when emergencies occur and detect malfunctions so as to ensure road safety."

    The road will literally empower electric vehicles through photovoltaic cells that provide a charging service as cars move.

    The expressway is expected to help release passenger traffic pressure in the Yangtze River Delta, Sun noted.

    "I always leave some time for when I have to drive on the Hangzhou-Ningbo Expressway, as traffic jams are frequent," Shi Xiaobai, a businessman commuter on the Hangzhou-Ningbo Expressway told the Global Times on Sunday. "And it took me four hours to get from Hangzhou to Shaoxing on February 18."

    The somewhat-parallel Hangzhou-Shaoxing-Ningbo Expressway, boasting the same origin and destination, will offer an alternative route to the current Hangzhou-Ningbo Expressway, according to the Hangzhou Daily.

    The expressway will also feature a comprehensive sensing, monitoring and early warning system to reduce traffic congestion, the report said.

    China's first solar expressway with a length of 1 kilometer was opened for testing in December 2017 in East China's Jinan. But it was vandalized and had sensitive parts stolen from it five days after opening, the Beijing Youth Daily said.

    This story by Yin Han was first published in the Global Times.


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