The long-awaited premiere of the high-speed SkyWay module capable to accelerate up to 500 km/h is planned for September this year in Berlin. The novelty is unique in many ways and even now, when little is known about it, many people are already surprised.
It seems common that high-speed passenger transport is a train of multiple wagons or an airplane that accommodates 250-300 passengers. This configuration seems reasonable both in terms of system performance and in terms of its cost-effectiveness. However, it turns out that if you change the approach to passenger traffic arrangement, you would reconsider the established norms: to create vehicles of small capacity (6-8 people) and at the same time to make travelling not only comfortable, but also more affordable.
The design of SkyWay high-speed transport systems allows arranging movement of modules with an interval of up to 2 seconds. With a 6-passenger capacity of each module, it is possible to provide a performance capacity of up to 500,000 passengers per day in two directions, which is more than enough for the absolute majority of cases. At 500 km/h speed the distance between modules will be approximately 300 meters, which is quite acceptable from the view point of safety. To make this clear, it is enough to imagine a highway with cars moving at the same distance from each other.
The cost of a 6-passenger module from series production will be approximately equal to the average cost of a car, since the high-speed SkyWay vehicle has the same set of components: motors, a small battery to travel 100 kilometers in case of breakdown, passenger compartment, air conditioning. On recalculating the fare per passenger, this makes SkyWay much more economic than a high-speed train with each car costing about 5 million euros and accommodating 50-60 people. If we divide the cost by the number of seats, then in the case of a high-speed train, we get 100,000 euros per passenger, whereas in the case of a car and SkyWay the cost will be only 5,000 euros per person at a vehicle cost of 15-20 thousand. Thus, SkyWay at smaller sizes can be 20 times more efficient. However, this is far from the basic point.
The main expenses for moving are energy and fuel consumption. Due to their exceptional aerodynamic features, SkyWay high-speed modules are unparalleled in this respect. The expected fuel consumption of the new high-speed six-seat unibus is about 8 liters per 100 kilometers of track in gasoline equivalent. If we recalculate this again for the number of passengers, we will get 1.4 liters per passenger per 100 kilometers, which is about 4 times less than for the best passenger airplanes.
SkyWay are overpass-type systems. One extremely important fact is associated with it. In many cases it makes the modules small in terms of space and size preferable. The point is that such a configuration of rolling stock makes it possible to reduce the material consumption, and hence the cost of the overpass. And everything is explained quite simply.
Any overpass bends under load. The greater is the load, the more the overpass is bending – hence, it should be made more powerful, and proportionally. The most expensive part in trestle transport is the flyover itself (up to 80% of the project cost). If you increase the module by 2 times, then the overpass will be heavier, so it will cost more for each kilometer, too. Taking into account that the performance capacity of 500,000 passengers per day (unthinkable for most of targeted projects) can be provided by transport modules with a capacity of 6 people each ... What’s the need for gigantomania? Time dictates fashion for miniaturization. World industrial giants strive uniformly to make their gadgets simultaneously both as efficient as possible, and as lightweight as possible.
Visualization of one of the concepts of “trains of the future” shaped in the middle of the 20th century
The premiere of high-speed SkyWay in Berlin is undoubtedly preparing many surprises and unexpected impacts. Anyway, it is clear already now that SkyWay transport cannot be measured by the old framework and standards. Today, it demonstrates a fundamentally new approach in everything – in logistics, ergonomics, energy consumption, automation. It can become a standard itself tomorrow. The others will strive to look up to it and correspond to it.
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