Innovations

19
Jun

2013

Curvo Ropeway: Non-Linear Aerial Urban Cable Cars by CSR

CURVO Ropeway's angular module. Image by CSR.

CURVO Ropeway’s angular module. Image by CSR.

A great thing about researching CPT is that sometimes you never know what you’re going to stumble onto next. Recently, I came across a ropeway manufacturer in India called Conveyor & Ropeway Services where a few years back they announced that they’ve invented a new type of aerial transit called the CURVO Ropeway. Without going into much detail at this time, some of the purported features of this technology include:

  • Cabin capacity: 8-10 persons
  • Tower “kerb” spacing: Every 80-90m
  • Tower footprint: 2.0 sq.m.
  • Line capacity: 2,000-2,500 pphpd (single track); 4,000-4,500 (double)
  • Cost: USD$27 – 50 million per kilometre
  • Average Speed: 12.5km/h

While the stats above are comparable to a MDG (if not more expensive, and lower capacity), it appears that main difference between the CURVO and its existing counterparts lies in its gripping mechanism. Since I’m not an engineer by trade, some of the terminology used to describe the technical features of the CURVO grip is not well understood. However, as I know some of our readers are more technically-oriented than I am, an excerpt from the original article has been pasted below that describes the company’s innovation:

CURVO Grip. Image by CSR.

CURVO Grip. Image by CSR.

” The crux of the CURVO Ropeway’s invention /development lies in designing the Gripping Device of the rope, in its vertical structure with respect to the rope, along with horizontal actuation of gripping means, and rendering it possible to shift centroid of suspended Cabin / Carriage, essentially required to negotiate the horizontal curve at line speed, keeping the grip structure clear of the Battery Rollers, whose main function is to provide horizontal support to the tensioned rope negotiating the curve. This could be done with relational adjustment of levels of the rails supporting the two wheel bogies on either side of the rope effecting changed suspension, and relief of the Rope on the Battery Roller system. Depending on city configurations, the Curvo lines should be able to cross each other.” 
 

So in plain language, it seems that CURVO’s claim to fame is that their cabins can make sharp corners without detaching from the propulsion cable. Exactly how many degrees it can turn and navigate is unclear. But based on a video that the company has released, it seems that their prototype line have modest cornering capabilities (skip to 6:41).




However, we already know from existing systems (i.e. Kolmarden Wildlife Park Cable Car) that unidirectional lines can already accomplish significant turns with light infrastructure. How this is different or similar to those features requires more investigation. If anything, perhaps due to geographic and language barriers, the video has created just as many answers as there are questions.

I always find it incredibly interesting to see how different companies around the world are constantly developing ideas and techniques to solve our urban transport challenges. Whether this technology catches on is unknown at this time — however, West Bengal and Dhaka, Bangladesh is reportedly in the midst of investigating its potential feasibility.



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

09
Jan

2013

User-Controlled Smart Glass (Electrochromic Shades) on Boeing 787 and Lessons for Aerial Cable Cars

Throughout our time on the Gondola Project, we’ve seen many transport systems install smart glass windows (i.e. Morizo Gondola in Japan and Bukit Panjang LRT in Singapore). However, these systems did not offer users the ability to control when the glass becomes “frosted” nor the amount of “frostiness”.

Enter Boeing’s newest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner. These planes now feature what they like to call, “electrochromic shades”.

Electrochromic Shades on Boeing 787. Image by Flickr user Jun Seita.

Passengers can now choose and adjust how transparent they want their windows to be (see video below). While the “electrochromic shades” term sounds a lot like a marketing buzz word, the company is quick to point out that this design was built to improve passenger comfort and fun. And who can doubt them? I’m not sure about you, but if I boarded a plane with this tinting system, I’d certainly let all my friends and family know about it.



This Boeing case study is a great example of how innovative companies and technologies are constantly undergoing minor upgrades to improve passenger experience — something that is often lacking in the field of public transit.

While user-controlled smart glass windows cannot and should not be replicated on all transit vehicles, this feature can certainly be translated into aerial gondola systems.

Giving passengers the option to adjust the level of brightness in a cabin may not convert hordes of auto commuters into transit riders, but perhaps anything that adds a bit of “personalization” and “fun” into the often dreary public space of a transit vehicle is a welcome site.



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

25
Oct

2012

Fliz Bike Concept

The Fliz which is short for Flitzen...which means speeding with your feet. Image from fliz-concept.blogspot.ca.

One of our readers sends us along a link to probably one of the most interesting and bizarre urban mobility contraptions we’ve ever seen. The Fliz – a pedal-less, seat-less, foot-powered bicycle invented by German designers –  has attracted a lot of attention this year. For obvious reasons, it’s been subject to much ridicule and derision but in some cases, has also been commended for its unique design.

According to the inventors, the concept was inspired by the human-powered transport device called the Dandy Horse or Laufmaschine, which many consider to be the precursor of bicycles. While I could attempt to provide a more detailed explanation on how the Fliz works, a video in this case really does a much better job. Enjoy!

 



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

04
Oct

2012

Terraza del Mar in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Funicular Elevator

Here at the Gondola Project, we often discover really interesting uses of cable technology that is little known or understood. Couple weeks back, we found out about the Hohenwerfen Castle funicular and last year, we learned about the private funicular in the Kriens development in Switzerland.

In particular, the Kriens funicular demonstrates how cable can be implemented to open up development potential on hillside property. Coincidentally, while watching an episode of House Hunters this weekend, I stumbled upon a fascinating housing development which basically applies the same concept found in the Swiss example

The development I’m referring to is known as Terraza del Mara condo complex in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This building was constructed on a slope in a tiered formation which provides residents with spectacular views of Banderas Bay.

It's a little hard to see, but the funicular is sandwiched in the middle of the housing complex. Image from selectvr.com.

A closer view - funicular at the top of housing complex. Image by Flickr user mcgrayjr.

As we’ve discussed before, the implications of this application of cable technology can be far-reaching. In this example, with the introduction of a cable system, this previously “undevelopable” piece of real estate suddenly becomes “accessible” and skyrockets in value. Aside from the sheer cost-effectiveness of building a funicular to complement the development of a hillside property, the novelty and rarity of such a transport contraption suddenly gives the housing complex an edge on its competitors.

In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that buyers often not only express that the funicular is their favourite part of Terraza Del Mar, but also find themselves riding it up and down like kids at Disneyland!



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

12
Sep

2012

How the London Emirates Air Line Cable Car Powers its Cabins

The issue of energy has come up a lot when we talk about urban cable systems — and for a good reason. If cable is going to succeed as the modern, comfortable, city transit technology it claims to be, then such amenities as heating, air conditioning, video screens, wifi, and two-way communication systems are going to have to be standard features.

For most of their existence, gondola were not heated, cooled, or souped-up in any way because frankly, there was no need. If you’re skiing outside all day you don’t exactly want to step into air conditioning and heating is not necessary since you’re all bundled up and only inside for a few minutes at a time. But as cable moves into the urban realm, the issue of power becomes increasingly more significant.

Can cabins be heated and cooled?

Yes. For example, London’s new Emirates Air Line cable car has air conditioning. In fact, we’ve know that it was possible for a while, having had this discussion before, we just weren’t sure how.

The solar panel is not the answer

So how do cabins get power?

First off, definitely not from the small solar panels seen on the roof of some gondolas. Since gondola cabins aren’t connected to a power source, heating and cooling, etc, is not as straight forward as say, in a subway. But this doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Last week an article came out about how the Emirates Air Line cable car in London utilizes ultracapacitors to provide power to each cabin. So there we go, voilá.

Each cabin has an ultracapacitor on the roof

But what does that mean and how does it work?

Ultracapacitors are like batteries in the sense that they both store energy. A capacitor, on the other hand, unlike a battery, can charge and discharge energy very, very quickly (like in a matter of seconds). In the case of the London gondola cabins,

“48V ultracapacitor modules fitted on top of each car [to] enable split-second, rapid energy charging of the modules on reaching the charging stations located at both turnaround points.”

Maxwell Technologies 48 V Ultra cap

Capacitors have a longer lifespan so you can repeat this process way more than with a battery — in this case, up to one million charge/discharge cycles — and they require little to no maintenance.

The rapid charge is key because it means that the capacitors can charge as the cabins pass through stations. A battery, on the other hand, would need a much longer charge period. Since the capacitor is continually charged through out the day, its physical size can be reduced. For a comparable battery system that would recharged at night, the sheer amount of batteries needed for each cabin would probably be far too heavy and too costly to be practical.

The ultracapacitors installed in the Emirates Air Line cable car were manufactured by Maxwell Technologies. The capacitors are a green technology that use electric fields, rather than chemical reactions, to store energy. The Maxwell 48V modules are the same capacitors used in hybrid buses and construction equipment. They can allow for high bursts of power needed to accelerate or to lift a heavy load (opposed to a gradual loss cruising or lowering a load) and they can quickly recapture energy from braking.

In conclusion, yes, gondolas/cable cars/aerial cable transit cabins can be individually supplied with enough energy to power temperature regulators, multi-media screens, and all the lighting necessary for your ultra-comfortable, ultra-modern, and ultra-fun cable experience. You just need to add ultracapacitors to the top of each cabin to charge everything up in the station and you’re good to go.



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

30
May

2012

Beautiful Tower and Pylon Infrastructure

Design Depot's spherical lattice towers.

The tower infrastructure associated with cable transit is justifiably maligned. It’s utilitarian and rarely pretty. But it doesn’t have to be.

Last year, the Royal Institute of British Architects tackled this very issue through their Pylon Design Competition. Now granted, that competition was specifically targeted towards electricity transmission towers, but the same applies here. (Note, you can see all the short-listed design concepts here.)

Flower Tower Concept by Gustafson Porter with Atelier One and Pfisterer.

As we’ve seen with systems like Portland and London, tower infrastructure can be a piece of artistry. Towers such as those are admittedly expensive rarities but only because they’re, well, rare.

That’s simple Supply and Demand working there. Beautiful towers are rarely in demand; which leads to non-existent supply; which, in turn, leads to increased cost.

The flip side of that, of course, is that if more beautiful towers are demanded, then the cost of beautiful towers will come down. And everything I’m hearing from cities contemplating cable propelled transit systems, suggests that change is not long off.

Cities (or more exactly, politicians and policy-makers) don’t like the idea of awful-looking lattice towers cluttering up their backyards and that’s likely to drive a sea-change within the industry. If not now, then some time in the near-to-mid future. The companies that figure that out and learn how to provide pre-fabricated, yet beautiful tower infrastructure will be at a clear competitive advantage in the urban market.

Remember: Ugly is nothing more than an opportunity to be beautiful.

In the meantime, take a look at a handful of tower designs (some realized) I managed to pull from around the web and imagine how you might use them in a cable transit design of your own:

Russia's Design Depot came up with this gorgeously whimsical take on the classic lattice tower.

 

Mulhouse, France's Tramway Pylons. Image via flickr user michallon.

Iceland's Choi + Shine Architects' award-winning "Land of Giants" transmission tower concept.

Enessere's wood and steel Hercules wind turbine.



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

14
May

2012

Why Wheeled Luggage Is Important

Image by flickr user Andrew Stawarz.

Ask yourself a quick question:

How long have suitcases, trunks and luggage existed for?

The answer – of course – is almost hopelessly elusive. Luggage, in some form, has been around since humans have been travelling.

Knowing when the first person slapped together an ancient ancestor of Samsonite is impossible to determine. But we can make a reasonable guess and assume luggage has been around for at least a few thousand years – probably more. I don’t think anyone would challenge that assertion.

Now ask yourself a second quick question:

When did someone decide to put wheels on luggage? The answer might surprise you.

Bernard D. Sadow holds the United States’ first patent for “Rolling Luggage” and it was issued in 1972. The so-called “Rollaboard” with telescoping handle, meanwhile, was invented in 1987 by Robert Plath.

In other words, what are arguably the two greatest innovations in the industry of personal material transport only occurred within the last 40 years – for a product/industry that’s existed for thousands of years.

Weirder still? Fashioning a wheeled trunk or suitcase requires little in the way of advanced mechanics, technology or know-how. It simply required wheels. Your 8 year old cousin could build one over the course of a Sunday afternoon. There’s no genius involved here.

I mention this solely to remind people how long change can take – and how utterly illogical the innovation process can be.

For every Google, Apple and Facebook that conquers the world in what seems like a heartbeat; there are those innovations, ideas and technologies that take (quite literally) millennia to come into being. Cable transit (to bring this back to home) has existed since at least 250 B.C. Strangely though, we’ve only started seeing it within the last generation as actual public transit.

The key is to understand the market conditions that (dis)favour your idea, technology or product and figure out if what you’ve got is wheeled luggage or Facebook. Likely, you’ve got something somewhere in between those extremes and it’s essential to understand how close to uptake the idea is – then plan your strategies and tactics accordingly.



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.