Trains are great for efficiently moving freight long distances and are used the world over. Many regions already have all electric rail systems, but in North America electric adoption hasn’t happened. Historically, this has been due to the installation and maintenance costs for the vast distances of overhead electric wires. Advances in battery technology hopes to change this.
An American company, Wabtec, built and tested their FLXdrive engine last year and found it worked rather well. The engine is built on the same platform as their Diesel engines but runs off of batteries more powerful than a Tesla’s and can regenerate energy with braking.
However, the environmental benefits of rail have been undermined by the heavy reliance upon diesel to fuel freight trains, as well asa widespread preferenceamong businesses to move goods via trucks rather than trains. This is a problem globally beyond the U.S. â€” the International Energy Agencyhas saidthat freight rail is â€œoften neglectedâ€ in climate debates and currently carries only seven per cent of all freight moved around the world.
A greater tonnage of goods is now moved by trucks on roads than by rail, however, and the rail industry hopes action on the climate crisis will prove advantageous to its own prospects. â€œIf we decarbonize all of the locomotives and decrease the number of trucks, we will get to where we need to be,â€ said Gebhardt. Medium and heavy-duty trucks are responsible for about a quarter of all U.S. emissions from transportation,according to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than double the pollution emitted by aircraft.
In order for train travel to be safe the rails the trains ride on need to be of a certain quality. You don’t want the equivalent of a pot hole on rails. In order to maintain good tracks workers need to shut down the rail line and physically go out to the rails. This delays trains, and therefore travelers. Nordic Unmanned, a Norwegian company, has created the BG-300 drone which is designed to monitor rail quality without having to alter train schedules.
As it does so, it inspects the tracks utilizing cameras and “other sensors,” plus it can lubricate rail switches if required. Importantly, though, if it encounters any other rail traffic, it will autonomously fly up off the tracks in order to get out of the way until that traffic passes. It can also use this functionality to move from one track to another.
As a result, stretches of rail lines do not have to be closed to trains while inspections are being performed. Such is not the case with traditionally used inspection vehicles, such as trolleys or rail-wheel-equipped trucks.
Flying isn’t so popular right now due to the pandemic and many airlines are financially hurting, and in France they are helping the Air France. Due to ineffectiveness in the private company the French government stepped in and doubled it’s stake with one key condition: the airline eliminates some of its routes. Short flights of 2.5 hours or less will no longer be permitted in France as the carbon output of one of those flights is 77 times that of a train. Train service in the country is good, but with the additional passenger load the service will improve with expansion.
Given how horrible plane travel is for the environment all of use should be grateful for France leading the way on this smart transportation policy.
The measures could affect travel between Paris and cities including Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux.
The French government had faced calls to introduce even stricter rules.
France’s Citizens’ Convention on Climate, which was created by President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 and included 150 members of the public, had proposed scrapping plane journeys where train journeys of under four hours existed.
The 1970s oil crisis left an impact on the city of Denver in the forms of good public transit. The writing was on the wall that individualized transit infrastructure that favoured the automobile wouldn’t be a good long-term solution for the city so they did something. Thanks to the initiative taken decades ago Denver witnessed how good transit infrastructure built for people can positively shape a city. Since then light rail has been added to the city thus saving itself from turning into a generic, sprawling, and parking filled North American sub-urban community.
â€œWe are talking about a culture-transforming moment,â€ says Denver mayor Michael Hancock. â€œLight rail has really moved Denver into the 21st century.â€
How the $7.6 billion FasTracks project saved Denver from a dreaded fate locals call â€œHoustonizationâ€ is the story of regional cooperation that required the buy-in of businesspeople, elected officials, civil servants and environmentalists across a region the size of Delaware. Their ability to work collectivelyâ€”and the publicâ€™s willingness to approve major taxpayer investmentsâ€”has created a transit system that is already altering Denverâ€™s perception of itself, turning an auto-centric city into a higher-density, tightly-integrated urban center that aims to outcompete the bigger, older coastal cities on the global stage.
The answer for how their famous bullet trains move so quickly is thanks in part to biomimicry, the study of using animals as a source for design. The front of the bullet train was inspired by the beak of a kingfisher which allows for more efficient airflow and thus less of an environmental impact. This is merely one example of the interesting world of using the evolution of animals to design the world around us.
Japanâ€™s Shinkansen doesnâ€™t look like your typical train. With its long and pointed nose, it can reach top speeds up to 150â€“200 miles per hour.
It didnâ€™t always look like this. Earlier models were rounder and louder, often suffering from the phenomenon of “tunnel boom,” where deafening compressed air would rush out of a tunnel after a train rushed in. But a moment of inspiration from engineer and birdwatcher Eiji Nakatsu led the system to be redesigned based on the aerodynamics of three species of birds.
Nakatsuâ€™s case is a fascinating example of biomimicry, the design movement pioneered by biologist and writer Janine Benyus. She’s a co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit encouraging creators to discover how big challenges in design, engineering, and sustainability have often already been solved through 3.8 billion years of evolution on earth. We just have to go out and find them.