Commercial Director on urban transport development, CJSC “Transmashholding” Andrey Vasilyev gave an interview to the city news Agency “Moscow”. The professional with years of experience in actually competitive transport emphasized in it the advantages of SkyWay transport and commented on the consistency of Elon Musk’s attempts to remove the aerodynamic drag.
The high evaluation is particularly pleasing from an independent transport expert. A mutual understanding and respect are the basis of gradual transition from the “grounded”, the so-called “classical” modes of transport to the transport of the future. Here is an excerpt from the interview (the text in full is here) (in Russian):
A good question is why rail transport is in demand, although it seems that it is inconvenient when the transport runs on rails only. Here it is possible to mention the concept “elastic hysteresis”, which is a phenomenon of interaction between elastic objects. For example, the pairs familiar to everyone and proven: rubber wheel and asphalt, “steel wheel-steel rail” (railroad) or electromagnetic suspension. Let us begin to compare them in terms of their rolling resistance factors, and eventually we will hit against economic efficiency.
The difference between the rolling resistance of a railway wheel on a steel rail is much less than that of rubber on asphalt. It seems it would be better to switch over to electromagnetic suspension, but here we will again hit against economic feasibility. The reason is that the electromagnetic suspension is quite expensive by itself, it is rather a complex system requiring considerable energy consumption to maintain the effect of electromagnetic levitation ― a train “floating” above the track, and the benefit in rolling resistance is not much higher than in “steel on steel”. Thus, the railroad track (steel rail and steel wheel) have the most beneficial rolling resistance factor. And all the energy we apply to move the rolling stock can be spent to overcome other things ― aerodynamic resistance (at high speeds) or the needed work on transportation of heavy cargo due to lower energy consumption.
That’s why at present, and I guess, for quite a long period ahead, “steel-steel” will be an extremely beneficial combination. Even if we take a futuristic example ― string transport, there is also the pair “steel-steel” used in it. Therefore, it is a nice, modern and economically justifiable method.
And, of course, everything depends on money again. While travelling from one point to another, we want to do it as much economically as possible: we chose the least costly tariff, and we are even ready to sacrifice some of our time. Although in some cases, there is no need for it any more. Now the high-speed transport on the route Moscow-Saint Petersburg can be compared to the time that a person spends from the threshold to the threshold with an aircraft. I am confident, it will evolve further, and we will be able to move faster on the rails, too.
The next element that should be taken into account is the aerodynamic drag. In general, the mankind is working to overcome this factor. For example, it is done in string transport. By the way, it is trying to “fight” with one of its elements ― “airfoil effect” or a kind of “air cushion” that occurs when an object moves fast near a flat surface. String transport is supposed to be raised above the ground in order to eliminate this negative effect. There is such a type of vehicles ― ekranoplan (wing-in-ground effect vehicle) that uses this natural air screen effect when flying above a flat surface, but from the viewpoint of the movement of a conventional rail or road transport, this element is negative, because in general it increases aerodynamic drag. We are talking about quite high speeds, when speeds are low, aerodynamic drag can be neglected.
Another element of “fight” are the most famous Elon Musk’s reflections about vacuum tubes, when air is partially removed from them to reduce aerodynamic drag. Work on this aspect is underway, however, until now there is no some sane, economically justifiable means to remove aerodynamic drag yet.
Photo - David Becker/Getty Images
“Transmashholding” produces one of the world’s best rolling stock for passengers and we, of course, are examining all the trends including our distant reflections, but we prefer to concentrate on more grounded things. Certainly, I understand the irony of the word “grounded” when we are talking about underground transport. Nevertheless, we have to carry out our work perfectly, so that descending into the underground, you knew exactly that you would get from one point to another in the allotted amount of time, and you would not meet any traffic jams or other problems. That’s why at the moment we do not produce any futuristic transport ― neither string-type or Hyperloop transport, but, of course, we follow all new trends including these ones.