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Stiffer Pavements Could Reduce Fuel Consumption, Study Says

(May 24, 2012) — A study by MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering shows that building stiffer pavements on roads could reduce vehicle fuel consumption by as much as 3 percent.

According to a report on the study by Truck News, researchers believe that resulting savings could add up to 273 million barrels of crude oil per year and an annual decrease in CO2 emissions of 46.5 million metric tonnes.

The study is said to be the first to use mathematical modelling to look at the effect of pavement deflection on vehicle fuel consumption across the entire US road network.

Researchers found that deflection under the tires is similar to that of beach sand underfoot: With each step, the foot tamps down the sand from heel to toe, requiring the pedestrian to expend more energy than when walking on a hard surface. Stiffer pavements would decrease deflection and reduce that of a vehicle’s “footprint.”

“This work is literally where the rubber meets the road,” says Professor Franz-Josef Ulm. “We’ve got to find ways to improve the environmental footprint of our roadway infrastructure.”