With carbon footprints becoming more important in infrastructure development, the transportation sector is doing its part around the world to make a difference. Train travel and other alternatives to gasoline cars have come to the forefront. Trains are much more efficient and less polluting than motor vehicles. Electric trains are between 50 to 75 percent less polluting than passenger cars and trucks and use comparably less energy per passenger-mile.
The emissions profile depends a lot, of course, on each grids mix of fuel sources. Some grids, like in California and New England, are fairly clean already due to a mix of various renewable fuels such as wind, solar and natural gas. California for example now has a mandate for 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Regular cars are also becoming cleaner due to increased fuel-efficiency requirements at the federal level.
Other countries are also attempting to advance alternative ways to fuel mass transportation. Indian Railways is soon going to materialize its ambitious plan of utilizing solar energy to run trains. The initial solar powered coach is undergoing trials and plans are to outfit every single train car with solar panels, officials said. It’s believed that there is an ability to harness enough power from the sun to reduce carbon emissions by thousands of tons per year. Although in its infancy, this is a broad stroke towards dramatically changing the transportation sector and its need on fossil fuels.
THE BIRTH OF A TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is pushing forward “The Hyperloop”, which is a transportation network of above-ground tubes. These “vacuum tubes” would in theory, span hundreds of miles. They would operate based on extremely low air pressure inside the tubes. Ergonomically designed pods filled with people would shoot through these tubes at near supersonic speeds.
A prototype of Musk’s high speed rail will reportedly begin construction within the next few weeks. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, (one of the many companies trying to develop Musk’s vision) will build the test track which will cover five miles in California, between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s expected cost $150 million, and take nearly 3 years to build.
It is intended to be able to transport 10 million passengers during the testing process. This construction will be a series of large elevated tubes filled with vacuums and magnets. The plan is for these pods to reach speeds up to 760 miles per hour when empty, which is close to the speed of sound. The company says it will have the ability to travel at speeds up to 160 miles per hour when loaded with passengers.
If successful, this would replace the entire flight industry from Los Angeles to San Francisco with one tube, traveling only four times. This would not only be a tremendous feat of ingenuity, but would also go a long way towards revolutionize transportation as we know it, all the while reducing our carbon output, and reliance on fossil fuels.
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