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by Daniel Gloade on August 12, 2012

All cities are confronted with logistical problems. You want to reduced traffic congestion and pollution. You also need a system that is sufficiently flexible so that resources are delivered at specific points at fixed times.

Kitchener uses buses. The advantage are their flexibility. A fleet of buses do not need a great deal of infrastructure (a terminal and bus stops). The bus routes can be easily changed to service developing areas.

Although buses are far more fuel efficient than cars to transport an equivalent amount of people, buses are not as efficient as trains, however. Trains are more efficient because they do not need to overcome as much inertia in order to start and stop. Solid metal wheels on thin, smooth rails create less friction than wide, air-filled rubber tires on ash vault roads. Also, trains overcome less friction because they have more wheels and axis. The weight is more evenly distributed throughout the length of the car.

Finally, it is possible to run trains on electricity. It is difficulty to store energy on a moving vehicle. The added weight of the fuel increases the need for fuel. A combustible liquid, such as diesel or gasoline, is an efficient method of storing energy. You need heavy engines and transmissions, however, to convert the chemical potential energy into kinetic energy. A light vehicle that draws electricity from a stationary power source is the most efficient method of powering moving vehicles.

I believe that our ancestors had found a way to more efficiently address both of these problems.

Land Trains.

In World War I, armies had to find efficient methods of getting objects to the Front Lines.
They built trains with pneumatic. I suggest that we use a similar system.

In essence, the train engine would be similar to a tractor in a tractor-trailer. Unlike other tractor trailers, however, the tractor would be used to generate electricity. (Perhaps a modern, two-stroke turbo-diesel?)

Apart from cylinder deactivation, the engine does not have to address changing loads or speeds. It only needs to generate electricity to spin-up turning flywheels (one for each car) so that there is sufficient power reserved for foreseeable future needs. The simplicity of purpose permits designing more efficient and lighter power trains.

Each car would have several axis to evenly distributed the cars’ weight to reduce friction.

Each wheel should be electric. The train will work less when starting because each wheel will be moving at the same time. Each wheel will have regenerative braking to assist in moving the train once more.

Excess electricity, from both the regenerative brakes and the tractor would be stored in a spinning flywheel.

Buses, tractor trailers and other long road vehicles need a wide turning radius. That is because these vehicles have only one (front steering wheels) or two (steering wheels and trailer hitch) axis on which the vehicle can pivot. The land train can pivot at each axial, allowing it to have a much smaller turning radius. Maneuverability is enhanced because the there will be a greater distance between the cars. All-wheel steering will further allow the land train to slide diagonally into the adjourning lane.

Each car can have sensors so that each car will follow the path of the proceeding car exactly. Rear-facing cameras will allow drivers to reverse with ease.

What do you think? I am asking the engineers out there whether this is a good idea or whether this is foolishness. I welcome your thoughts!

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