By Mark Halper
Posting in Aerospace
It does not go airborne, but this Dutch mass transit electric vehicle flies down the highway at the velocity of high-speed rail.
Holland’s six-wheel Superbus, the brainchild of one of the country’s first astronauts, runs on electricity and hits speeds of 250 kilometers per hour (155 mph).
It’s no coincidence that that’s the equivalent of European high-speed rail, because former astronaut Wubbo Ockels is positioning Superbus as a low-cost alternative to new rail infrastructure. (Watch the Superbus jet down the roadway on YouTube).
Ockels, an aerospace engineering professor at Holland’s Delft University of Technology, says that Superbus “injects a whole new stimulation of public transport.”
The “bus” is 15 meters (49 feet) long, about the same as an ordinary transport bus. But Ockels notes, “it’s much lower and it’s much more aerodynamic (and) it uses same amount of energy at 250 kilometers per hour as a normal bus does with 100 (62 miles per hour). And it’s electric, so it fits with the future.”
He and his team at Delft are in the final stages of testing Superbus. Ockels hopes to have a pilot deployment “within a few years” and is looking for partners to help commercialize it.
An Italian woman, Antonia Terzi, designed it. Although Terzi has experience designing Formula One races cars, she described the Superbus project as a “white piece of paper” and a “fantastic challenge.”
Of course, there’s a huge safety question of how to run 155-mph vehicles along roads that are carrying cars limited to 70 miles per hour or at a standstill in traffic.
But fast-forwarding, so to speak, can you imagine these things pulling in and out of Greyhound stations? With respect to Simon and Garfunkel, “‘Kathy,’ I said as we boarded a Superbus in Pittsburgh,” just wouldn’t evoke the same emotion as the original lyrics in their classic “America.”
That’s progress. Maybe one day the venerable bus line will have to re-brand itself. Make way for SuperDog. But please, make the road safe first.
Note: The idea for this story came during a clean technology tour of Amsterdam partially funded by the Dutch government.
Photo: Car Addicts
May 18, 2011
Adding one more lane may be less expensive than a rail line but building rail lines is far less expensive than building expressways, they need much less space, they provide higher speed, are more efficient means, and are safer modes of transportation. Maybe it is time to place rail lines for high speed trains in the mall areas of superhighways. Such placement solves the problem of finding spaces for high speed trackage.
First, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Holland just a small country? This thing would no sooner start up to speed than it would be slowing to stop, to stay within the country. Or is this to compete with long distance rail, as well as buses? Next, how about road requirements? 43 feet vehicles take somewhat wider turns than your usual automobile. Routes for this 'superbus' will obviously be limited to the same as regular buses. This thing has low clearances. How about 'high-centering'? And forget about driving over speed-bumps! Last, how about safety? Traditional buses are somewhat armored against side collisions, but being raised above car height reduces rider injury even more. This thing is right down at automobile level!
These things are going to need dedicated lanes. In many areas, that will mean widening roads - adding another lane in each direction. So yes, it will be less costly than laying down rail lines, but they'll not be able to use the existing road network in many areas. Secondly, battery technology - capacity & recharge time - will be limiting factors as much or more so as they are for other electric vehicles.
As pointed out indirectly, speed of road transport is much more about traffic than about the technology. Any mass transit is much more efficient than individual cars. If the transit got you there faster it would be preferred much more often. The answer is dedicated roads or lanes or some way to give the bus preference and help it on its way. Thinking that the main answer is streamlined electric vehicles is just another boondoggle to stop us looking at policy.
Oh yes, we did: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/thinking-tech/superbus-hopes-to-turbocharge-mass-transit/6772?tag=search-river Looks really cool. Practical? Not hardly.
"Holland???s six-wheel Superbus, the brainchild of one of the country???s first astronauts, runs on electricity and hits speeds of 250 kilometers per mile (155 mph)" It should be 250 kilometers per hour, right?
reducing the high speed and getting it to be more efficient at 60 mph than existing gas guzzling bus designs? Beyond being better for the environment, that eliminates the need for maintaining special high-speed lanes on highways to support the safe use of this monstrosity. And did anyone on this development team look at the tire usage of racecars operating at those speeds? INDY, NASCAR or any other format you want to discuss, the proof is on the track. Rubber tires do not hold up well to the duel demands of high speed and traction for safe use. A racecar having a blow out at 150 mph endangers only 1 life on a well-designed track. A blowout on a bus at those speeds with 40 plus people on it is a different story. Besides, you would need a pit crew at the end of each run to change tires out before the return trip. How cost effective is that to operate? Nice publicity stunt.