A GIANT TRAFFIC-STRADDLING bus (seen above) has caught the world’s attention, but it may be a different public transport technology that has the lasting impact.
The day after a prototype 2 metre-high Transit Elevated Bus made its inaugural test run along 300 metres of track in the northeastern city of Qinhuangdao in Hebei province, China’s first fully indigenous super capacitor (‘supercap’) tram rolled off the production line in Zhuzhou in Hunan province.
Both tick several boxes for China: road-congestion reduction, green transport that will lower carbon emissions and cutting-edge technology.
The electric-powered Transit Elevated Bus can carry 300 passengers, with, its manufacturers say, up to four of its 21 metres long by 7.5 metres wide units eventually being able to be strung together.
It runs along a track that can be laid on an existing road and sweeps over the traffic below (or at least over vehicles low enough to fit under) at speeds, it is said, that will eventually reach up to 60 kilometres per hour. It is touted as being like a subway system without the need to build the tunnels, thus reducing construction costs to a fifth of that of constructing a new subway line.
The super capacitor tram (seen above) does not have the futuristic look of the elevated bus. It looks like, well, a tram. Built by the electric motor division of the giant state-owned rolling stock manufacturer CRRC Corp., ZELC, the tram can carry up to 380 passengers and travel at 70 kilometres per hour. Its key feature is that its batteries can be fully powered in 30 seconds — i.e. while it is stopped to take on or put off passengers — so there is no need to install unsightly fixed lines above the track to provide the power.
The technology is at least a decade old and lets trams run for up to 5 kilometres on a single charge. Centenary-less supercap trams using technology from Germany’s Siemens are already running Guangzhou. Nanjing will be next. China’s cities have 5,000 kilometres of tram track with plans to have half as much again by 2020.
But why bother with tracks at all? Super capacitors can also be used to charge electric buses. ZELC has already developed a prototype in Ningbo, a bus that still travels on the road rather than over it.