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Monomobile: Dual-mode transportation
Old 07-01-2008, 09:05 AM   #1
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Monomobile: Dual-mode transportation


http://www.monomobile.com
This electric car would clip onto an overhead rail for the long part of the trip, then go the last few miles on internal battery power. During the "cruise" portion of the trip (on the monorail), the cars are computer controlled and would travel in tight groups of 4 or 5, with 100 feet between groups, at a speed of 100 MPH. The internal batteries of the cars charge up while they are on the rail.

This idea solves a lot of problems (from the web site):
-- 400% more fuel efficient than a conventional car
-- Lower vehicle costs than an electric car (much smaller battery needed)
-- Much cheaper to add new capacity than our present roads (add capacity at 1/14th the cost of highways)
-- Lots of capacity in little real estate: 4 tracks (two each way) would be 32 feet wide, and would have the same capacity as a 20 lane highway. -- Most of the advantages of mass transit (low cost, read a book on the way to work, etc) without the inconvenience (waiting for the bus, walking the last mile, etc).
-- Higher speeds are no problem: Because the cars are aerodynamic and the track has extremely low friction, the small motors in these cars could get them up to 200 mph for long stretches of inter-city travel. That would take some of the pressure off our air transport system as well (time-wise, anything within 600 miles would be faster to reach via Monomobile than airplane once all the time wasted at the airport is factored in).

There are several of these dual-mode transportation schemes around. Given the way US cities are spread out, I think these ideas have a lot more potential than either continuing to increase the number of cars on the road (hybrid, electric, or conventional) or trying to make buses/light rail work for everyone.

One other advantage the web site doesn't mention: There's no reason that the same track couldn't be used for a light rail system (trolley cars of 20 passengers). They would get the advantages rapid transportation (above the highway congestion), the trolley/bus could make a few stops at various drop-off points, and then get back on the rail to pick up more passengers. This would help relieve parking congestion, and be even more efficient.

I do see one technical issue: Breakdowns. If these are privately maintained vehicles, then a few will be in ill repair. I'm not sure what the plan is when a car crumps out on the tack--there's no shoulder. I can see a LOT of mad commuters backed up while waiting for the broken-down vehicle to be pushed along/lifted off the track.

Okay, Hometown Harry and other experts--what's wrong with this--or why don't these projects ever take off? Is it the chicken/egg problem? (no one wants to buy the car until the rails are in, and no city wants to fund the rails if no constituents own cars to ride them). Are we finaly ready for something like this?
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Old 07-01-2008, 10:45 AM   #2
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Wow, this is some cool stuff, I have no idea about the logistics of this, it just seems that there would be a lot of overhead going into the production of this, but I would certainly use one if the option was given to me.
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Old 07-01-2008, 10:48 AM   #3
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Hmmm..Where to begin..Like most of these ideas, looks good on paper.

Light rail type vehicles use 700+ Volt DC electrical systems. Substations (the power conversion place where 15000 Volts get made into 700 VDC) have many thousands of Ampere current capability. Dealing with that sort of energy is not trivial. Consider that a few milli- Amperes can kill you. Happy homeowner vehicles are rarely maintained to the standards needed for that sort of power. A small arc turns into a humongous arc welder in a hurry. The results are often spectacular.

Mixing different voltage vehicles on the same system is beyond any practical means.

First is the track, power, control and safety systems -horridly expensive. Then the environmental impact study takes 20 years, before everyone shoots holes in it, then re-schedule the study.

Someone has to design the vehicle, pass safety tests and then try and market it.

If you try and mix government/corporate owned track and track vehicles with privately owned track vehicles, added liability issues.

There is a reason why on failed rail vehicle recovery, only track certified techs can go and do it, the chance of getting killed in the process is very high.

I'm sure by the time environmentalists, politicos, lawyers, get done with the initial review, we will be all pushing up daisies. And the engineers have not even got started.

As a last point: most every light rail system in the US is obscenely expensive to build, hideously expensive to maintain, dismally under-performing in terms of return on investment.
Virtually all of systems were designed by political hacks for high self aggrandizing purpose, go to places the large majority don't go, destroy business corridors. In sum they are high on the boondoggle list.
Other than that they are great.
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Old 07-01-2008, 02:23 PM   #4
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Some responses:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ls99 View Post
Light rail type vehicles use 700+ Volt DC electrical systems. Substations (the power conversion place where 15000 Volts get made into 700 VDC) have many thousands of Ampere current capability. Dealing with that sort of energy is not trivial. Consider that a few milli- Amperes can kill you.
Well, obviously the light rail systems use 700 volts because it is safe (in that application) and it is relatively efficient. In these small individual cars something closer to 72 VDC would probably be the most practical voltage (compatible with the onboard batteries and motors, etc). Now, 72 VDC is nothing to sneeze at (it's tougher on contacts than the 120 VAC we live with in our homes) and these cars will be drawing some current, but none of this is inherently unsafe. 72 VDC will have higher resistance losses than a higher voltage would, but that's really small very change compared to the efficiencies gained by going this route. Plus, all this electrical stuff is well away from the ground. Lots of cities still have overhead electric trolley lines that run right through residential areas and are far more exposed than these lines would be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ls99 View Post
Happy homeowner vehicles are rarely maintained to the standards needed for that sort of power. . .There is a reason why on failed rail vehicle recovery, only track certified techs can go and do it, the chance of getting killed in the process is very high.
Agreed. This will be an issue

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If you try and mix government/corporate owned track and track vehicles with privately owned track vehicles, added liability issues.
You mean, like we do now on our roads? Government-built roads occupied by private vehicles, corporate vehicles, government vehicles. All being hand-driven by people with almost no training and very little certification of competency. With no automation or system-wide control/flow optimization at all, no vehicle-to-vehicle communication to enable "smart" braking, etc. If anyone proposed such a system today, they'd certainly be laughed out of the country. Yet, it is what we live with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ls99 View Post
As a last point: most every light rail system in the US is obscenely expensive to build, hideously expensive to maintain, dismally under-performing in terms of return on investment.
Virtually all of systems were designed by political hacks for high self aggrandizing purpose, go to places the large majority don't go, destroy business corridors. In sum they are high on the boondoggle list.
Other than that they are great.
Agreed. A dual-mode system like this preserves flexibility -- you can get off and drive to where you want to go, you're not stuck at the terminal. If the per-mile cost is low enough and the terminal footprint is small enough, I don't see why a system like this couldn't parallel our present main roads. This is a complement to our present surface-based individual transportation system, using the already existing infrastructure for terminal transportation, not a ""you can only go where the line goes, and you'll wait for the next train" answer. That's the main attraction to me.
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Old 07-01-2008, 03:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
Some responses:



Well, obviously the light rail systems use 700 volts because it is safe (in that application) and it is relatively efficient. In these small individual cars something closer to 72 VDC would probably be the most practical voltage (compatible with the onboard batteries and motors, etc). Now, 72 VDC is nothing to sneeze at (it's tougher on contacts than the 120 VAC we live with in our homes) and these cars will be drawing some current, but none of this is inherently unsafe. 72 VDC will have higher resistance losses than a higher voltage would, but that's really small very change compared to the efficiencies gained by going this route. Plus, all this electrical stuff is well away from the ground. Lots of cities still have overhead electric trolley lines that run right through residential areas and are far more exposed than these lines would be.
The reason for 700 Vdc is, it is lowest practical voltage to allow for reasonable size conductors to carry the necessary current. And no it is not safe by any means. Relying on the height of the catenary to keep unintentional contact to a minimum, it does not eliminate all unintentional contacts. Or with third rail a "closed" system.

At 72 Volts and many users, the conductor would be thick as an arm. Even with regenerative braking. One could argue for powering through the running rails. That method has a host of problems onto itself.

Regarding the mixing of vehicles, since you can't easily move a broken unit to the side of the road, reliability, control, safety, signaling, braking, communications and acceleration performance must be equal among all types of vehicles to maintain spacing. All of this must work right each and every trip. That is a very tall order. The traveling public has no clue as to the cost and complexity of railway controls. Let alone the operating costs.

As to getting on the track in an efficient manner? Inspections and tests of control systems of each vehicle before entry to ensure safe operation would be needed. Why? See above paragraph.

The cost of the foregoing is beyond the public's wildest dreams.

Rail transport is a serial experience, unlike highway travel, which is largely parallel (option for passing). Speeds must be rigidly controlled.

I'm not arguing that in can't be done. Yes it can, in the age old motto of the Air Force: enough money and a big enough engine we can make a barn fly.
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Old 07-01-2008, 04:16 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ls99 View Post
...dismally under-performing in terms of return on investment...
Do these CBAs include safer, less congested roads, less pollution, less need for added road capacity, $7/gal gasoline, or just revenue from riders?

Not being combative, just wondering...
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Old 07-01-2008, 04:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
it just seems that there would be a lot of overhead
They'll do it anyway, because the developers have a one-track mind.
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Old 07-01-2008, 04:32 PM   #8
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Do these CBAs include safer, less congested roads, less pollution, less need for added road capacity, $7/gal gasoline, or just revenue from riders?

Not being combative, just wondering...
Great question.

No the items you listed are not calculated in. I have not seen anyone quantify listed items in terms of $$$$ or in $/mile.

If anyone could, I'm sure it would have been Printed in Large Numbers, to show that benefit to the taxpayers who funded the systems to begin with.
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Old 07-01-2008, 04:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Great question.

No the items you listed are not calculated in. I have not seen anyone quantify listed items in terms of $$$$ or in $/mile.

If anyone could, I'm sure it would have been Printed in Large Numbers, to show that benefit to the taxpayers who funded the systems to begin with.
Based on DART in Dallas, I've seen no such large print...
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Old 07-01-2008, 04:38 PM   #10
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They'll do it anyway, because the developers have a one-track mind.
And not enough training.
(groan!)
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Old 07-01-2008, 06:10 PM   #11
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Innovative Transportation Technologies for better urban livability and improved mobility

Those (geeks) interested in these personalized mass transit ideas might find the site at the above link interesting. The systems that would allow the vehicle to leave the tracks and travel on existing roads are called "Dual Mode" and can be found under that button. In other systems (called "PRT= "Personal mass transit" or PAT" = Personal Automated Transport) the small cars stay on a lightweight track, hold just 1-4 people, and go to the destination you request. In this case, the cars are owned by the transit operator, not by individuals. There would be a walk from the drop-off point to where you want to go, but the small cars would enable drop-off platforms to be located in many more places than is possible with big trains.

Some of the discussion mirrors what we talked about above (including the big advantage of being able to go inter-city at 150-200 mph and avoid flying).

Interestingly, some of the key participants in the ongoing discussions on that site believe private companies (instead of taxpayer-supported transit systems with the problems mentioned by ls99) could and should be the ones developing these things.

It would sure be good, though, if we had a single standard instead of a hodgepodge of incompatible local answers that can't be effectively melded into regional transportation grids.
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